Today’s guest blog is by Diane Quinn.  Diane has been a mentor for Helium, is currently a steward, and as of this writing has 4 stars for both writing and rating with over 100 contributed articles among other accomplishments.  If you enjoyed her post, be sure to check out her articles on Helium.  If you would like to be a guest blogger or would like to recommend someone, please feel free to contact me via my “contact writer” link on my bio.


As a new Helium member I already know that you love to write.  However, perhaps it has been a very long time since you fell asleep during an English grammar class. Before I found Helium most of my writing centered around emails which didn’t require a lot of organized thought; and certainly not much editing besides a quick spell check.

Self-editing is challenging because it is difficult to remove yourself from the emotional attachment you have formed to your writing.  The sooner you can evaluate your writing from a purely technical standpoint, the quicker your articles will rise in the ratings.

Following are some self-editing tips that helped me as a new Helium member. I hope that they will help you too.

  • Quickly evaluate your weaknesses.  What mistakes do you keep repeating?
  • Find good resources explaining the basic rules of grammar and punctuation.
  • Choose your words carefully.  Pick dynamic verbs and interesting adjectives.
  • Avoid overly long sentences.  They can work just as well as a sleeping pill.
  • Organize your thoughts and present them in a logical order.
  • Understand what it means to write a topic sentence.
  • Vary sentence structure.  Overuse of “See Spot run.” will only impress a 2nd grader.
  • Avoid repetition of words.  Use the ‘find’ tool in your Word program.
  • Important: read your article out loud prior to submission for awkward sentences and clumsy words. If you find yourself stumbling, do a rewrite.

You don’t have to memorize the rules, but you do need to know that they exist and which ones are your weaknesses.   Books on self-editing are legion and easily obtained, as are websites devoted to self-editing.  Here are a few great internet resources to add to your ‘bookmark.’

  1. http://oregonstate.edu/dept/eli/buswrite/capitalization.html
  2. http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/marks/marks.htm
  3. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/gcomma.html

One of the biggest complaints on Helium – besides rating of course – is the leapfrog feature.  The common argument is that the articles are yours and you should be able to edit them as you see fit.  I’m going to state something that will likely be misinterpreted and unpopular – they are not.

First, yes, you own own rights to the article – we license it non-exclusively.  What I mean to say is that we license the first draft you give us – if you decide to change the article, it is necessary for us to make sure that it is deserving of the merits it has received to date.

Why? Simple – spam and vandalism. Because of the auto approve policy of items we have very little control over what goes on Helium.  Our rating and flagging systems are used to rank quality and to weed out any offensive articles that are submitted.

Now, we realized early on that we had a need for an edit feature – but we had the conundrum based on the fact that we had passed on certain status and recognition to an article based off it’s current version.  So allowing another version to simply assume that status and recognition without some sort or review process was a no go – the simple fact was it would make it too easy for someone to get a #1 article and then simply swap it out for something offensive, self-promoting, and/or spam.  Would it eventually be auto-corrected by the rating and flagging systems naturally – yes.  But until it was, it would look extremely bad for the site and the community.

We also realized that just as with submissions there would be a ton of revisions posted and we simply didn’t have the manpower to review each manually.  We are a very small shop and the community was growing exponentially in relation to our size – the problem would only get worse.

Hence, the birth of leapfrog.

We already had a system – rating – that sorted for quality.  We could use that as a peer review.  Originally, it was a very stringent process but has since been simplified to the point that it’s basically a check for abuse by a minimum number of the community.

So in answer to the question to “Why can’t I just edit my article as I see fit, it is my work after all!” the fact is, again, the copy on Helium is not – we licensed that copy.  And by putting our name and reputation on it along with the status we’ve conveyed via rating and ranking we have to maintain that quality level by peer review – leapfrog.

Can it be a pain sometime? Yes.  Does it fail when it shouldn’t sometimes?  Yes.  Is it perfect?  No.  But nothing is.  We’ve seen – the last numbers I’ve seen at least – that something like 90% of leapfrogs pass.

Might it be replaced someday by a real peer review if we had members of the community willing to do that?  Sure.  But that’s not something we can count on just yet.  It would be a huge workload.

I hope that helps.