Pam Nelson, with the American Copy Editors Society, has put together a nice Check list of items that ALWAYS need fact checking. A great reminder as we start the new year.
Pam readily admits her is list by no means is my list definitive. “Editors have many more things to be aware of — fairness, balance and internal consistency among them,” she writes.
1. If a date is mentioned in the story, either recent or historical, check it. Nothing will undermine credibility like misstating the date of a historic event. Even if you are almost certain that Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, check it. If a writer refers to the Enlightenment being a part of the 17th and 18th century, check it. (I just did.)
2. If the name of a well-known person appears in a story and you have any hesitation about it at all, check it. I can’t even count the number of times I have corrected the spelling of actor Dan Aykroyd’s name. You should also check the spelling of lesser-known people if you have time or doubts.
3. If a writer uses a place name that you are unfamiliar with or that is often misspelled, check it. The copy that I read most often has North Carolina names that need to be checked. (Alleghany, not Allegheny, is one.)
4. If there is arithmetic in a story, check it. Keep a calculator handy. If a writer says that the Declaration of Independence was signed 235 years ago, check it (2011 – 1776 = 235). If a percentage change is mentioned, check it. If a person’s age appears in a story and you can check it, do. Check the birth date of well-known people and do the math.
5. If the story refers to a number of items within the story (15 steps to better health, 10 reasons to use an iPad), count the items. Make sure a well-known list (12 zodiac signs, 50 states) is complete if it is meant to be.
HERE IS THE LINK TO PAM’S COMPLETE POST: