Now more than ever we need extensive fact-checking in our manuscripts. Most people hear about fact-checking on the news or on Twitter in reference to statements made by political figures.
In the book publishing industry, fact-checking should happen before the book is made available to readers. This means that from the early editorial stages, editors should be working on fact-checking, but this isn’t quite an industry standard yet. As time goes on, the need for fact-checking in editing is becoming clearer and clearer. So how do you even begin?
For your first step, you’ll need to establish credible sources, which will vary depending on the manuscript. As a general rule you’ll want to avoid sites like Wikipedia since anyone can edit a Wikipedia page. The best sites to use are usually government websites or sites from professional organizations. For example, if you were editing a manuscript about malaria in the US, a couple of good sources for information would be the American Medical Association and the Center for Disease Control. Your sources should be respected in their fields and have a good track record of providing accurate information.
Next you’ll need to establish what needs to be fact-checked and make a spreadsheet where you document the fact in the manuscript and the proof you find that the fact is true. It is a tedious process, but this is absolutely crucial in assuring that the published information is accurate.
Once you’ve done these first two steps, you’ll need to communicate with the author on your fact-checking findings and suggest edits as necessary. Once the edits are complete, you’ll want to repeat the fact-checking process to make sure that the edited work is accurate. While this process is time consuming and difficult, fact-checking before the book is published can save immense amounts of trouble later, making it all worth it in the end.