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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about how to fact check your own writing….
When I worked in daily newspapers 30 years ago (when newspapers were still a viable business proposition), we didn’t have fact checkers.
I learned about fact checkers when I wrote my first piece for a national magazine. A fact checker was a person who painstakingly verified the accuracy of everything you had written. This meant that — in addition to checking all the factual information — they also re-interviewed every person you’d interviewed to confirm the accuracy of all your quotes.
I didn’t hear how they did it (they kept the writer at arm’s length from the process) but one time I experienced fact-checking myself. I’d been interviewed for an article for a national magazine and someone called me to confirm what I’d said. I found having the tables turned on me in that way to be a deeply fascinating process!
But, the bottom line? Most publications don’t have fact checkers any more. It’s too expensive. So if you want your article (or post) fact-checked, you’re going to have to do it yourself.
In a recent post on the Write Life Blog, headlined, “How to Fact-Check an Article You Wrote — Like a Pro,” writer Carson Kohler gives a succinct five-point plan for being your own best fact checker. She suggests that you:
- Step away from the keyboard and put some space between you and the article
- Print your article and highlight all proper nouns, facts and numbers
- Verify facts and claims
- Keep a close eye on age, numbers, superlatives and conclusions
- Do a gut check (when in doubt, throw it out)
On the surface, her tips might sound a bit nebulous but if you follow them you’ll find they will help add a far more professional patina to your writing. As Kohler says, “Sure, it’ll take time, but fact-checking your own work will make you a better, more credible writer, freelancer and blogger — and your editors will love you.”