fact checking

* This is the first of a two-part series on fact checking.

Imagine you’re attending a seminar with the intention of enriching yourself, expanding your knowledge base, or at the very least, picking up a fact or two. Let’s say it’s a TED Talk you’ve been earnestly waiting for, by one of the most respected and most influential personalities in your given industry. Exciting, no? What could ever go wrong?

So you attend the talk, you take down notes, and you make it your life goal to apply all the fascinating and life-enriching things you’ve learned from this successful speaker (who, incidentally, is now your hero). With confidence, you face the work week, only to find out later that everything that the speaker said was false. Okay, not a blatant lie per se, but not completely accurate either. You question the universe; has your entire life been a lie?

So you like to write…

If you’re reading this, then you are obviously in the business of creating content; online copy to be specific. You are a writer, providing either on-page or off-page content to paying clients. As such, it’s quite natural to share facts and trivia with your readers and even tell them what to do and how to do things, all in the form of tips, hacks, or whatnot.

As a writer and content provider, you are the TED Talk speaker in the above scenario, sharing information with your audience, your readers. To make sure that your readers don’t end up having existential dilemmas because of the inaccurate information you shared with them, it’s imperative that you check your facts before you put them out there.

Don’t look like an idiot.

Okay, so maybe it’s not that big of a deal (and it’s quite unlikely anyway) that people question their beliefs because of an article you wrote and published without first being sure of its accuracy. But it should be because if anything, publishing such articles only makes you look like an idiot. Other than that, here are other reasons that fact checking your work is important.

  1. Your reputation is on the line. This is redundant, really, because how much clearer can “don’t look like an idiot” get. All it takes is a Google search of a detail-oriented reader to verify your facts, and if it turns out that you’re wrong, your entire message is overshadowed by a mistake.
  2. Mistakes tend to snowball. Once you’ve published anything online, it’s out there forever. Regardless of revising it or even deleting it, there’s a good chance that someone’s already seen it in its original form. That person could easily share the info they got from you in their own circles, proliferating wrong information. Your mistake can snowball.
  3. You represent your client. Aside from having to guard your own reputation, as a writer, it’s your responsibility to protect your clients’ brand, and even represent it in a positive way. Each wrong bit of information you put out there on behalf of your client is a blotch that tarnishes their reputation.

From now on, check and double check your facts before you publish anything online. To that end, learn how to do it in the next blog, or sign up.