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As one say creation for "the act of creating something", couldn't the word edition mean "the act of changing something"? I was under the impression it was the case. But a remark from one of my colleagues, telling me I should use editing instead, prompted me to check on Wiktionary. As it turned out, I didn't find the meaning I searched under the definitions. Note that my colleague and I both are not native speakers. So which of us is right?

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I someone used edition in this sense, I would think they were translating (badly) from their own language. –  GEdgar Oct 5 '11 at 16:08
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3 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Your colleague is correct. Though it would make sense for edition to mean editing, it has come only to mean the result of the editing (e.g. second edition) or the format of the finished work (e.g. leather-bound edition).

It would be better to use editing or revising.

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Looking at the etymology, "edit" is a back formation from "editor" (the etymology of which is closer to "publisher"). Etymonline says that in the 16th century, the word "edition" also meant the act of publishing, but that meaning is now long obsolete. –  Peter Shor Oct 5 '11 at 14:07
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@Eldroß: editing (revising) might work, or edit (revision) might work, depending on the context. Maybe if you gave the rest of the sentence you were thinking of putting edition in, it would help to show what word to use instead. –  Daniel Oct 5 '11 at 18:02
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I would recommend the term "emendation" for this purpose.

For example: "Emendation of the injured text was made to restore sense."

More examples here.

The advantage of using "emend" in this way is that it is often more value-neutral, where "edit" has a somewhat critical nuance that may be unwanted.

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The disadvantage is that it isn't a common term. Also, I don't think there's that big of a distinction between edit and emend. I would hesitate to say that the advantages are great enough to significantly outweigh the disadvantages. –  Daniel Oct 5 '11 at 15:12
    
I do not believe that "commonness" need be the determinant of which word is best in a particular instance. –  The Raven Oct 5 '11 at 19:09
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No, but it is a determinant. I'm just saying that I don't think it's that much better than edit or revise. –  Daniel Oct 5 '11 at 21:02
    
The average English speaker has never heard or read the word "emendation" even once. –  Miles Erickson Oct 5 '11 at 21:19
    
I don't know if it would be relevant to changing a database entry through an HTML form, but I learned something new. That's the reason I like E&LU. –  Eldroß Oct 6 '11 at 6:38
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"Creation" means the result of creating something, not the act of creating something. The act, I suppose, would be a gerund like "creating."

"Edition" also means the result of editing something, however, its idiomatic usage would be significant collection of edits, pulled together into a whole. This comes from the historical background of printing, where creating a new version of a book is time consuming and expensive. If John Grisham's latest novel has a spelling error on page 63, then the printer is not going to recall all those books to correct this. Rather, on the second printing they will correct this and other collected changes, and this would be a new edition.

Modern fast online publishing don't have this problem, though they do have a different problem -- a constantly changing document is hard to refer to. For this reason many technical documents are still issued in editions/versions, so that everyone has a common reference to talk about. Of course a word document is a lot cheaper to version than a paper book, but version numbers serve a different purpose in that case.

In terms of your question, It has become common to refer to a small scale change to a text as simply "an edit." I have never heard such a change referred to as "an editing", in fact, it sounds pretty foreign to me. "Emendation" sounds really formal to me too. No doubt it is correct, but I just don't hear it used very much, but that might just be me.

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Actually creation can mean the act of creating; in fact, it's the first definition Dictionary.com lists. You are right that one instance of "edition" is called an edit. But you would use editing in some cases, e.g. His constant editing of the script was getting irritating. –  Daniel Oct 5 '11 at 17:55
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I have to disagree with your first paragraph. It is true that "creation" can mean the result of creating just as "editing" can mean the result of editing. But it is quite common to say things like, "Bob was responsible for the creation of this book", with essentially the same meaning as, "Bob was responsible for creating this book". You wouldn't say, "Bob was responsible for the edition of this book" to mean the same as "Bob was responsible for editing this book". –  Jay Oct 5 '11 at 18:06
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