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Editing and Ethics

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

In the publishing world, nonfiction writers are expected to write accurately and document their sources. Sometimes new information is obtained or corrections need to be made. Newspapers and magazines issue corrections and retractions. In the worst case, books are recalled. Ever notice that there isn't always an explanation for a new or revised edition for a book? I reckon it's up to reviewers to find out where things are changed if the author or publisher doesn't explain things.


Making changes in weblogs can seem unethical. What are the rules?

When it comes to electronic media, it the rules seem to be different. If bloggers make changes, we can be found out. (I remember one tinhorn atheist who called me a coward for not putting my name on my site, and I told him that it was indeed there. He checked the link on the internet archive to see if I was acting like an atheist and lying about it.) Some people are criticized for making changes, even minor ones like wording and typos. Sometimes I edit within an hour or two after the thing is published without feeling guilty. When do we need to add notations?

There doesn't seem to be a rule book on this that I can find. Although I wasn't worrying on this overmuch, I did commence to pondering on it off and on. Somebody told me that it's my weblog so I can do what I want. That didn't quite strike me as ethical — at least, not when it comes to science and theology. On the other hand, things can be cluttered with numerous notations of edits.

I decided that minor corrections, including adding or deleting links, do not need notations. Things that affect the content of the piece should have some kind of note. People who read my articles and posts have probably seen those, even a note at the beginning that let the readers know that something was revised. Changing important things that are pertinent to the content without some kind of note strikes me as rather unethical. 

So that's where I stand on this. Important changes require an editing note, but the minor stuff, not so much. This cuts down on the clutter and keeps editing in balance. Sound like a good plan?

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