Wikis don't work if people aren't bold. You've got to get out there and make those changes, correct that grammar, add those facts, make that language precise, etc., etc. It's OK. It's what everyone expects. So you should never ask, "Why aren't these pages copyedited?" Amazingly, it all works out. It does require some amount of politeness, but it works. You'll see.
OK, you folks still don't understand, so let me make this clear: if someone writes an inferior or merely humorous article or article stub, or outright patent nonsense, don't worry about their feelings. Correct it, add to it, and if it's a total waste of time, outright replace it with brilliant prose (and relegate the deletions to bad jokes and other deleted nonsense or the corresponding /Talk page). That's the nature of a WikiWiki, and long live Wikipedia!
So I might have convinced you to be bold in updating pages, but now you want to know: How does one edit a page?
For the most part, the instinctive desire of an author to "own" what he has written is counterproductive here, and it is good to shake up that emotional attachment by making sweeping changes at will when it improves the result. But there's an important exception to keep in mind: Commentary written by and specifically credited to one person should not be edited for content without correctly identifying all the changes. It's OK to fix obvious spelling and grammar bugs, but changing content is tantamount to making a false quotation claim. For example, the WikiIsNotPaper page contained a quote from Jimbo about something that would "grow gracefully old", and someone changed it into the cliche "grow old gracefully". That's not what Jimbo said, and it has a different meaning. It was also not an improvement on the original; in fact it was much worse. --LDC
Another comment: There are times when I have edited a page originally written in British English. Since my native language is American English, I do not consider myself competent to edit British text without accidentally throwing in a "realize" or "the team is..." or something else I'm not familiar with, so I simply "translated" the page into American English in its entirety so that I can be sure it's correct. This in no way implies that I think one is better than the other; only that I'm more competent to edit one. Of course, if a British person later comes along to edit it and wants to translate it back, that's fine too if he or she feels more competent editing that. --LDC
- Perhaps this debate doesn't really belong here, but do you really find British English so different that you feel you can't piecemeal edit it correctly? I certainly feel competent to edit pages obviously written by Americans :) As far as ending up with a mixture of British and American (and, what the hell, let's throw in some Australian, New Zealand, and South African English as well), I can't see it as a huge problem. If somebody finds the spelling and vocabulary inconsistencies too annoying, they'll get cleaned up IMHO. --Robert Merkel
- I don't need to edit other people's text to get a mishmash of American and British English -- my writing is a mishmash already! I switch willy-nilly from -ise to -ize and back again... :) --Simon J Kissane