We live in an era where anyone can post 1200 word blog posts or 140 character tweets. It is the great democratization of writing. But like many great changes, this one left some valuable skills behind, and those skills need to catch up.
I’m talking about the process of editing our writing. When I say “editing”, I’m not specifically talking about catching sentence fragments and the like, but adhering to common disciplines that readers depend upon. Are your facts accurate? Did you give proper attribution to other writers? (Since there are more writers today, there must be more attribution to give, thus the hyperlink)
A number of us have noticed the following conversation thread in social media today: a person broadcasts via social media an inspiring quote from a famous person or calls out an evil corporation based upon some purported fact. Readers then point out – via public comment – that the quote was actually said by someone else, or the “fact” that is cited about the corporation is an urban myth.
Instead of the original writer issuing some version of “I stand corrected”, amateur writers today (of which, I am one) have a tendency to brush off the error by saying something like “either way, the quote is still interesting”, or “it doesn’t matter, I still don’t trust that company”.
In social media, trust is currency. If you seek to build repeat visitors to your commercial enterprise or personal blog, you need to build trust. Trust that you’ll post regularly. Trust that you don’t pass something along without doing some basic homework. Trust that you value honesty over speed.
As traditional newspapers started to struggle, it was my personal belief that editing was one of the first areas to suffer. Now that so many social media avenues are open to us, and since we live in an opinion culture where everyone seems to have some opinion they’re broadcasting, it is time for editing to “catch up” to the voluminous content that is being created every minute.
None of this means that we’re gong to follow the fact-checking rigor of media companies of old, rather it means we’ll do our best, and step up when we slip up.
Create good content. Be diligent. Care about accuracy. Give attribution.