An editor’s 3 secrets to accurate copy

Factual errors come in many forms, but here’s a trio of tactics to root them out—or prevent them from creeping in.

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And I’ve introduced some in my own writing: In one book review, I identified the author by the wrong first name. In another, I gave Canis domesticus as the scientific name for the dog. (It’s Canis familiaris, or Canis familiaris domesticus, or Canis lupus familiaris.)

In a recent article, I relied on my very limited knowledge of French to address a comment to mon amis, rather than to mes amis. (My editor caught the two book-review errors, and a few of my website’s readers called me on the friendly faux pas, as some have done with other infelicities of mine.)

So it is as a sympathetic peer, not as a sneering superior, that I entreat you to practice due diligence in optimizing the accuracy of your writing.

Analyze your errors

Do you consistently make the same types of errors? Misspell people’s names? Offer erroneous wording of lengthy job titles or organizational names? Make math mistakes?

Record and tally your errors, and resolve to triple-check every instance in your problem area(s). And don’t rely on the popular media for this information.

Go to the source—an individual’s or organization’s website—or to a respected reference work. If you are math challenged, consult with a computationally adept ally.

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