Fewer copy editors in the newsroom—in fact, fewer editors in general—means that reporters must increasingly perform that function themselves. Before submitting a story or hitting “publish” on a website’s CMS, take an additional 15 minutes to review your work for accuracy. You’ll save yourself the embarrassment of writing a correction the next day.
Check these first three items while your story is on the screen:
1. Review spell-check suggestions and correct any actual errors.
2. Click links.
3. Call phone numbers.
Use a printout of the story for the remaining checks:
Put a ruler under each line as you read the text. Underline every fact, and then double-check each one, including:
• Names and titles of people, places and companies – Also, does each second reference (Jones) have a first reference (Mary Jones)?
• Dates and ages – Watch references to “next month/last month” when the month is changing.
• Quotes – Are quotes accurate and properly attributed? Have you fully captured what each person meant?
• Superlatives – What’s your source that something is the biggest, oldest, etc.
Check each sentence for correct use of:
Subject-verb agreement – Also, are you consistent in your use of either the present or the past tense to tell the story?
Read the story backwards, checking the spelling of each word. Here’s a dictionary.
Fairness and context
Terms – Define or eliminate unfamiliar terms, such as acronyms and jargon.
Fairness – Have all stakeholders been contacted and given a chance to talk?
Missing – Does the story leave any important questions unanswered?
Context – Does the reader have the context to understand the story?
Your own common errors
Read the story aloud.
Have someone else read it.
Accompanying elements – Run the previous checks on the story’s headlines, cutlines, sidebars, photos, graphics, videos and podcasts. Check for inconsistencies.
Thanks to these sources for inspiring this checklist: