How to Start Editing Wikipedia Articles On Your Own
Wikipedia is “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit”–it says so right on the homepage. But editing Wikipedia articles can be pretty intimidating, especially for newbies. If you’re curious about editing and don’t know where to start, great news: Annie Rauwerda, who runs @depthsofwikipedia on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, recently posted a crash course on this very subject:
There’s no mincing words here: The backlog of Wikipedia articles that need attention is almost unfathomably long, with 6.6 million articles in English alone. It’s a lot to wrap your head around–and unless you’re the type of person to jump in the deep end with no real plan, it may seem impossible to pick a starting point. But as Rauwerda points out, there are a ton of ways to contribute, and you don’t have to be a subject matter expert to be helpful.
Start with the Wikipedia Manual of Style
The best place for new editors to start is the Wikipedia Manual of Style, or MoS. You don’t have to memorize it or anything like that–it’s very long, and you’ll refer back to it constantly as you make edits anyways–but giving it a quick once-over will give you an idea of the standards. It’s also incredibly helpful to read the sourcing guidelines for citations. Citations are some of the highest-priority (and highest-value) edits you can make; familiarizing yourself with the types of sources out there is a must.
Choose your subjects of interest
Once you’ve taken a look at the Manual of Style and source guidelines, you should have the confidence to start thinking about potential projects. This doesn’t necessarily mean thinking about which subjects interest you (although coming in with a little background knowledge can be helpful), but the type of editing tasks you would most enjoy.
Maintaining Wikipedia pages isn’t just about sourcing citations and fixing typos. There are several different types of edits you can perform, including (but not limited to):
General copy editing: If you like a good old-fashioned copy edit, peruse the list of articles that need it and go for broke. Sourcing and adding citations: The list of articles with unsourced statements is long and intimidating–and important to chip away at. There’s also a gamified version that makes citation hunting little more interesting. Adopting an orphan article: “Orphan articles” aren’t linked to by any other article and need some cross-referencing. There is, of course, a list to get you started. Adding data to Wikimedia photos: Rauwerda compares adding missing photo data to “a very involved Captcha.” If that sounds like something you can do, use the Depictor tool to get started. Adopting a specific typo: Does a particular misspelling or grammar error drive you up the wall? Scan the list of adoptable typos and take on a petty little pet project. Adding photos to geography articles: There’s a neat tool that uses your location to suggest geography articles nearby that need images; fire it up, take a walk, snap some pictures, and upload them to Wikipedia. It’s like if Pok?mon Go and Wikipedia edits had a baby.
Start editing Wikipedia pages
By now, it should be clear that anyone can edit Wikipedia; there are so many different kinds of tasks up for grabs that you’re basically guaranteed to find something you like and are good at. When you think you’ve found your niche, dive in and get to editing–every little bit helps.