The specificities of lymphocytes for antigen are generated by a quasi-random process of gene rearrangement that often results in non-functional or autoreactive antigen receptors. Regulation of lymphocyte specificities involves not only the elimination of cells that display 'unsuitable' receptors for antigen but also the active genetic correction of these receptors by secondary recombination of the DNA. As I discuss here, an important mechanism for the genetic correction of antigen receptors is ongoing recombination, which leads to receptor editing. Receptor editing is probably an adaptation that is necessitated by the high probability of receptor autoreactivity. In both B cells and T cells, the genes that encode the two chains of the antigen receptor seem to be specialized to promote, on the one hand, the generation of diverse specificities and, on the other hand, the regulation of these specificities through efficient editing.