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Monday
Jul112005

Tip VII: Be a Stickler for Accuracy

Of course, everyone makes mistakes, no one is perfect, but writers must take great care to get their facts right. Otherwise they lose their greatest asset: Credibility. If you're known to regularly get the small things wrong, your ability to get the big picture right will be questioned by your readers.

Three rules of thumb to avoid making mistakes:

1. Get it right the first time around. During an interview, take the necessary time and care to read back the spelling of the source’s name and other names they mention. Ask for their age. As for all the details you need right there and then. Don’t fact-check after the fact. Do it during the reporting process.

2. Don't rely on memory and never assume. During the writing, constantly refer to your notes and other materials you have gathered while reporting the story. Also, do not make assumptions. If the facts, details or quotes you need are not in your notes, do a follow up interview (by phone if necessary) to get them straight from the horses' mouths.

3. Verify that you've got it right. After you’re done writing, it's never a bad thing to read back the relevant portions of your story to the people you've interviewed. This is particularly important when you are writing about something complex. For example, if you're describing a complicated financial transaction or an unusual medical procedure, there’s nothing wrong with asking the people you've interviewed to listen to what you’ve written. Ask them: “Have I described it correctly?” They will tell you.

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