‘Copy And Paste’ Can Help You Avoid Many Mistakes

Now that everyone is clued in about CQ’ing, we want to talk about a simple step toward accuracy that some have been taking for years, but others aren’t.

Copy and paste.

We’re not suggesting anyone lift lines or phrases from others’ reporting. That’s plagiarism.

What we’re talking about is an efficient way to get some things right the first time.

And yes, again, we know that many have been doing this for a long time. But we’ve come to realize that others aren’t. So here goes.

Want to be sure you’ve got someone’s name correct? Asking the person to spell it for you is obviously an important step.

But if that’s not possible for some reason, find the person’s official bio or another authoritative record (such as a court case).

Then, copy the name and paste it into your script, Web story and any other piece of content where it appears.

For example, let’s say you’re not sure if it’s Corva or Korva. Go here, copy “Korva” and paste it into your script or story.

Definitely do this if you’re linking to that person’s official bio or to a court case he or she is part of. It is quite embarrassing to add such a link and still misspell the person’s name in your story because you didn’t copy and paste. We’ve done that, by the way.

Speaking of official bios, they usually have the person’s correct title and other key details. Those are also copy-and-paste opportunities.

The copy-and-paste method helps enormously when you’re dealing with accent marks that are critical to some non-English words. Remember all those Memmos about clichés? The é didn’t get into them because of a keyboard command. We just searched for the word cliché, copied it and pasted it in.

Numbers are prime examples of facts that benefit from a copy and paste. When the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the unemployment rate, for example, it’s simple to copy the number and transfer it to your story.

None of this eliminates the need to double- or triple-check such facts. There may be mistakes in supposedly official documents. There’s always the chance that your finger slipped and you didn’t copy all of a name, number or title. Take another look or two before sending a story on.

Tip: Create a file in Notepad of names, titles, accent marks and other verified facts that come up often in your reporting. (It’s good, by the way, to use Notepad as an interim step between copying a fact and pasting it into a story because that program can strip out any coding gibberish that might be hiding in the information.)

Update at 12:10 p.m. ET: A conscientious editor correctly suggests it’s important to emphasize that Web versions of court documents, police reports, bios and other official records are not always error-free. So, we repeat, “copy and paste” is helpful — especially when it comes to accent marks. But it is not foolproof and does not completely eliminate the need to double-check facts against other sources. We can, and should, pick up a phone or knock on a door to nail things down if there’s any uncertainty.

That said, it still makes sense to go here, copy “Korva” and paste it in.

(“Memmos;” July 5, 2018)

July 5, 2018

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