Be sure your information is correct in any communication you write, whether it is an email, an article, a report, a news release, a policy statement, etc. Your credibility suffers when you send inaccurate information.
Incorrect information diminishes the integrity of the message, prompts people to be skeptical of future communication they get from you, and annoys readers when they have to do fact-checking that you didn’t do. Read carefully when you edit, and question your facts and numbers. If there is math involved, do the math again to make sure the original answer is correct.
Quotes require special attention. If you interview someone and quote the person, be sure what is in the quotation marks is exactly what the person said. Journalists erred when they tweeted that Mike Huckabee had accused women of not controlling their libido. What he actually said was that Democrats were insulting women by suggesting that they “can’t control their libido” without government-funded birth control.
As this PRDaily article points out, accuracy means two things: the quote needs to contain the exact words the speaker used, and the quote also needs to be in context. In the Huckabee incident, the words were correctly quoted, but he wasn’t expressing his own opinion; he was accusing Democrats of using that message.
If a speaker says something and you can’t write it all down or you can’t remember the quote in its entirety, quote only what you know for sure and paraphrase the rest. If it is an interview, ask the person to repeat the answer, or tell the person the portion of the quote that you wrote down correctly and ask him or her to repeat the remainder.
Paraphrasing, by the way, doesn’t mean you can be careless about the way you present that information. It just means you capture the essence of the speaker’s thought, but not in the exact words.
Readers like quotes because they represent real people speaking, and they want to assume the information they receive is accurate. Incorrect information wastes time and can have major consequences if it goes into widespread circulation.
Ken O’Quinn is a professional writing coach and former Associated Press writer who conducts corporate workshops on business writing, persuasive writing, and corporate communications writing. He is the author of Perfect Phrases for Business Letters (McGraw-Hill), which is available at here at Amazon.com.