Caslon Analytics elephant logo title for Publishing guide
home | about | site use | resources | publications | timeline   spacer graphic   Ketupa


past & future
























on demand

rights trade





related pages icon





related pages icon

Print &
the Book


section heading icon     Editing and abstracting

This page highlights writing about editing of electronic publications.

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

If 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The US Model Editions Partnership (MEP), a consortium exploring techniques for exemplary online publication of historical documents, includes markup guidelines on its site.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 activity. 

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developing guidelines for encoding text in electronic form for scholarly purposes, ideally in a way that won't be superseded within a generation.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 & Overview.

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 Kasdorf.

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 Electronic Environment.

Among the more provocative writing about the shape of editing and its implications are Mats Dahlstrom's 2000 paper Digital Incunables: Versionality and Versatility in Digital Scholarly Editions and Steven Johnson's 1995 Lingua Franca article Repossession, An Academic Romance: The Rossetti Archive & the Quest to Revive Scholarly Editing about the TEI.

The Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) 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.

     general guides

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.

     other publications

Our Design guide identifies major books and studies about what works online for different audiences. Other pointers are given in the Accessibility guide.

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 site. 

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. 

Journal of Electronic Publishing 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.


Even 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.

     other tools

The 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 Newsblaster, an AI-based news portal created by Columbia University's Natural Language Processing (NLP) Group, and Cornell University's Big Ear.

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 (eg BabelFish, Freetranslation 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.

     next page  (

this site
the web



version of September 2003
© Caslon Analytics