Before artificial intelligence was able to generate content, in most cases, the accuracy of written materials was assumed. AI has put that in doubt.
Accuracy is still essential when you develop and distribute content. Ensuring accuracy is the only way to build trust with the people you’re targeting.
Whether you’re writing original material, editing AI-generated content, or checking something developed by someone else, this checklist will help make sure you’re not misinforming your audience, breaking trust, and harming the reputation of your brand by distributing information that’s just plain wrong.
Checking Content for Accuracy of Original Sources
Identify every original source included in the material you write or review. Original sources are anyone interviewed, along with information supplied by your company.
Answering the following questions will help assess the veracity of sources.
Are You Identifying Sources Accurately?
Some people falsely represent themselves or the organizations they work for. They sometimes inflate their titles, work responsibilities or education, or backgrounds. If you feature an interview with someone in your content, go to their company’s website and their LinkedIn profile to see if everything about the subject lines up. If something doesn’t check out, call their company to resolve the issue.
Is the Source’s Name Spelled Correctly in Every Place It’s Used?
Journalism school students typically fail assignments if they misspell a name. It’s a significant issue and can call into question the overall quality of a piece.
When proofreading, most people pay close attention to the first reference of a name. But often, near the end of an article, they lose focus. Make it a point to check every place a name appears.
Is the Person’s Title Accurate?
LinkedIn, email signatures, and bios on company websites are good resources for verifying titles. If the title in one place differs from what’s on another, resolve the conflict by contacting the company.
Is the Business’ Name Spelled Correctly?
Many brands today have unusual spellings, letter spacings, and capitalizations. Always check online how to represent a business name properly.
Tip: If the name of an organization includes unusual capitalization or letter spacing, note it in the document so no one changes it during the production process.
Are the Proper Pronouns Used?
Does the person identify as he/him, she/her, or they/them? Never assume. Using the wrong pronoun could seriously harm a brand. Incorporate the interviewee’s preferred pronoun throughout the document. It’s a best practice to ask people to provide their identification details through a digital form before interviewing them.
Did You Get a Quote or Specific Information From Someone Other Than the Person Cited?
Sometimes a public relations or communication person may email a quote or information to you or provide it over the phone. If you haven’t worked with that person, verify whatever you receive with the individual it’s credited to. Ask the representative for contact info or have them do an introduction by email. Verify anything in question directly by email or phone.
Check the Accuracy of Third-party Sources
Ensure facts included in your content are accurate. This includes information found in another publication. Never perpetuate a myth or false statement by attributing it to another source. Answering the following questions while you review a piece will help ensure everything is correct.
Is a Source Cited for Each Piece of Data or Statistic?
Every piece of data-backed information should trace back to an original source (if it doesn’t, don’t use it). Verify the data or statistic through the original source to ensure accuracy and proper representation.
Is the Cited Source an Original One?
Often, a cited source is many generations removed from the native one, or it comes through long-ago broken links. Never publish anything that can’t be tracked to original research.
Is a Number Represented Accurately?
Solid fact-finding often uncovers misinterpreted data. This is typically the case with information passed down through multiple sources. The information is tweaked or spun over time, so it’s no longer accurate. It’s why it’s necessary to track data citations to original sources.
Does Cited Research Align With Professional Standards?
You don’t need to be a qualitative or quantitative research expert to identify an illegitimate study. Check out who was surveyed or what was analyzed. Review the questions asked and how data was gathered. Check the sample size to ensure enough people were involved to make the data meaningful. Some surveys report a data confidence level. A number close to one-hundred should help you feel confident about citing a research study or survey.
Is the Information Accurate?
Depending on the type of information, you can use several sources to check it:
Google: Type a quote or other information into the search bar. Use direct quotes or sentences from the material to see if it has been published elsewhere. Once you know where it’s been published, go to Moz’s Link Explorer tool to check the domain authority score. A higher score indicates a source you can trust.
Google Scholar: This resource is excellent for verifying information published initially in scholarly journals, textbooks, and other resources that can typically be deemed trustworthy.
FactCheck.org: This site is excellent for checking public policy and political claims. It’s sponsored by the highly respected Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The site allows people to ask verification questions directly.
Does the Information Come From Reputable Sources?
Leverage these tools to assess the quality of information you plan to publish.
Moz Link Explorer: As we’ve already explained, you can use the site domain authority score generated by Moz to determine how trusted and reputable a website is.
Plagiarism detector: Whether content is written internally or comes from an outside source, always ensure any material hasn’t been copied intentionally or unintentionally from another piece of content. It can harm your brand's reputation and earn you a Google penalty.
Finally, Check Author Information and Proofread Carefully
Review the details included in the author’s biography. If the writer isn’t accurately represented, your audience will be less likely to trust anything in the content they produce.
Now that you’ve reviewed our factual and contextual accuracy checklist, your content is ready for proofreading and editing. Our guide will help you do it right.