Discovering that pages need basic copyediting, i.e., correcting for grammar, spelling, readability, or layout, may surprise new visitors to Wikipedia, but this is the "encyclopedia that anyone can edit": it is not perfect yet! Thousands of articles need simple improvements 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

Step one
Scan the article for errors or ways in which 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" or "Edit source" tab near the top of it or one of the section [edit source] links.
Step three
Make your changes and fill out an edit summary. Be helpful to the editors who follow you by giving a summary of what you have done. Simple "Copy edit" is fine, but "Edited for tone" is even better. The most commonly used abbreviation for "copy edit" is "ce", which is better than nothing, but it is more helpful to include one or more words or phrases such as "capitalization", "subject-verb agreement", "fixed dangling modifier", "logical quotes", or whatever describes your edit.
Step four
Preview your change and save.
Step five (optional)
If you think the article does not need further basic copyediting, click Edit again and remove the "copy edit" template at the top of the article, which is what flags it as needing improvement. The template typically is a markup that looks like {{copy edit}}, with a date inside the braces.

Useful tools

Please be careful when using these and other tools; they are not infallible. You should manually check the output of online tools and spelling checkers for factual accuracy, grammar, spelling and the correct variety of English, and the output should be corrected where necessary. Editors are fully responsible for their own edits regardless of any tools they use.

Common mistakes to fix

These are some common errors you may find in articles:

Commonly confused words

its and it's; there, their, and they're; your, you're, and you; lose and loose; lie and lay (and their tenses); who's and whose; have and of (should of for should have)

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, however, are required 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, e.g., "Welcome to the Hellmouth" is the premiere episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


  • 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 do not refer to a decade without its century. See WP:DECADE.
  • Make sure apostrophes are used correctly, and watch out for greengrocers' apostrophes.


  • Avoid affected, pompous or excessive language, e.g., "due to the fact that" for "because", "ascertain the location of" for "find", and (in almost all cases) "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 and censorship 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.
  • Watch out for jargon and overly long sentences, which can reduce readability.
  • In lists, ensure parallelism. Use bulleted lists for more than a few elements, for readability.

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.


With the exception of direct quotations and names, do not use contractions in articles. Spell out the words in full, i.e., write "do not" instead of "don't"; write "cannot" instead of "can't"; etc.


Correct spelling mistakes and typos. See Wikipedia:Spellchecking for complete advice on how to do this well; the main points are:

  • Be careful to use the correct variety of English (e.g., American or British), which affects spelling (e.g., flavour, colour, centre and defence vs. flavor, color, center, and defense). Wikipedia:Manual of Style § National varieties of English has extensive guidance on how to choose correctly and how to write clearly for all readers.
    • Articles about a given region use that region's variety of English.
    • Otherwise, the first variety used by any given editor is retained by succeeding editors.
    • The talk page may have a banner indicating which variety is already established, or the article may have a template like {{Use British English}} at the top of the wikitext.
  • Most web browsers have built-in spellchecking. You can use external websites or software to check for errors.
  • If you want to focus only on misspellings, these tools are handy:

Things that do not need fixing

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. These are common in high-quality publications and should not be "fixed" without considering the consequences. For example, changing even one passive sentence to make it active can easily alter the meaning of an entire paragraph. Attempts to improve any passage must be based on tone, clarity, and consistency, rather than blind adherence to a rule.

Wikipedia does not prefer a single national variety of English. In general, do not change one to another except under the circumstances described in § Spelling above.


Remember that Wikipedia is a collaborative, consensus-based environment. Be bold in making changes, but if you find your work has been undone by another editor, visit the talk page of the article and start a discussion 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 the 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:

See also


  1. ^ Armstrong, Julia. "Copyediting and proofreading" (PDF). University of Toronto. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  2. ^ Butcher, Judith; Drake, Caroline; Leach, Maureen (2006). Butcher's Copy-editing (PDF) (4th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 4.