Your reputation as an authority is your most valuable asset, and it is up to you to protect it. Years ago, almost every publication had a team responsible for fact-checking every article. Most large media outlets had teams of specially-trained fact-checkers, while smaller publications required the editorial staff to check the facts of each article they edited. But today, most outlets rely on the writer to fact-check their work and attest to its accuracy.
As an expert, the responsibility for fact-checking your work lies entirely with you. Scrutinizing your work to find errors is not easy, but with a little practice, it will become easier. Here are five steps to help you fact-check your work so you can maintain your credibility with your readers:
1. Prepare to fact-check your work.
Collect all of the backup information you collected as you worked on your piece. If you interviewed someone, make sure you have their contact information. If you conducted desk research, note the author, title, date, link, and publisher for every book, article, video, or podcast episode.
2. Step away from the piece.
Fact-checking requires you to look at your work from the perspective of a cantankerous reader. To get into that mindset, give yourself a little time and space between writing and fact-checking.
3. Review your article and shore up any areas of weakness.
Read the entire article slowly. If you were tasked with discrediting the author of this piece, where would you poke holes in the argument? How do you know that a particular claim is valid? Are all of the cited sources reputable? What doesn’t ring true about the piece? Now, how can you address each of these concerns?
4. Print your article and identify items to check.
Read the article again, backward. Highlight proper nouns, underline facts (including superlatives and opinions masquerading as facts), circle numbers, and put a box around citations.
5. Verify the information.
Verify the spelling of proper nouns, statements of fact, numbers, and citations. Pay close attention to superlatives because these claims are rarely accurate. Double- and triple-check any discoveries that you find especially exciting or disheartening because our emotions can cloud our judgment, and things are seldom as straightforward as they seem. When stating your opinion, make sure it’s clear to the reader.
Fact-checking is a skill. Anyone can be a better fact-checker, but it takes practice and must be done with intention. Download and use my fact-checking checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything.
The better you become at fact-checking your work, the more your work will add to your credibility and authority as an expert in your field. And that is worth the extra effort.
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Erica Holthausen is the founder of Catchline Communications and a strategic thought partner to consultants who wish to build their authority and increase their visibility by publishing articles in industry trade journals and business magazines like Inc., Entrepreneur, and Insider. To learn how to raise your profile, register for Pitched to Published, a free monthly Q+A focused on writing, pitching, and publishing articles.