Misinformation is a problem that affects content across all industries. A 2016 Pew survey revealed that 23% of respondents had shared false news on social media and 14% had done so even though they knew the information was phony.
Brands and writers risk serious damage to their reputations if they’re caught sharing unfounded claims or bogus facts. So, it’s clearly critical to fact-check which is why we’ve put together a list of tips to help make it as painless as possible.
1. Know the Key Candidates for Fact-Checking
Not every sentence of an article needs to be fact-checked, but a few types of items are definitely worth confirming:
- Dates: A quick online search will confirm the dates of major events, but you may need to do a little digging to verify more obscure dates.
- Quotes: Take care not to misquote your sources. Not only can this ruffle their feathers, it can get you in legal trouble. Be sure that you haven’t cut off a quote in a way that might alter its real meaning and double-check for missing words.
- Numbers: Statistics, percentages, dollar amounts and other figures all need to be confirmed. One erroneous zero in a figure can completely change a story or infographic!
- Names: Double-checking isn’t just for the names of people. It’s easy to make a mistake with brand names as well. For example, eBay is spelled with a lowercase “e” and a capital “B.” Details like this may seem trivial, but getting them wrong can make your writing seem unprofessional.
2. Look Beyond the Internet
Checking facts online is convenient, but information on the web may be outdated or even inaccurate. In other words, Wikipedia and most blogs aren’t good enough. Try contacting an expert if you’re really unsure. Even if they can’t confirm a piece of information, they can hopefully point you in the right direction.
3. Go Straight to the Source
It may seem like obvious advice, but it’s worth stating that you need to check the original source. If you’re planning to cite research that’s mentioned in a blog, track down the original study or survey to make sure it’s authoritative and the results haven’t been misunderstood. Sometimes it can take some detective work to find the original source. I recommend using long-tail search terms with the most unique words or numbers to try and track it down.
A common stat that I see repeated even though it’s not true is that the human brain can process images 60,000 times faster than text. The human brain is amazing, but not that amazing and no one, it seems, can find the original source to back up this claim.
4. Trust Your Instincts
If you have an inkling that a fact seems a little “off,” go with your gut and track it down. Even if the fact turns out to be accurate, it’s better to have wasted a few minutes confirming it than to let an error slip through the cracks. If you can’t confirm it, take it out or find an alternate, authoritative source to quote.
5. Follow Directions
Not all publications have the same standards and processes for fact-checking. If the details aren’t defined in the guidelines you were given, ask your editor about the fact-checking protocol for their publication.
Fact-Check Yourself Before You Fact-Wreck Yourself
In an era of fake news, fact-checking is more important than ever. A quick Google search of your facts isn’t enough. However, it’s still possible to streamline your fact-checking and remain efficient. Taking some extra time to confirm facts before publishing is far better than potentially harming your professional reputation or that of your client.