Reference your sources properly.

As a marketing content writer, fake news isn’t probably one of your big problems. Or is it?

The Internet is full of quotable quotes — Rumi couldn’t possibly have said everything that we allege he did; random studies — 128% of website visitors leave within the first 30 milliseconds; and statistics that tell stories about industries that grow to tens of trillions of dollars each year.

All of these are things that we, as writers, believe to add credibility to our writing can do so only if they’re accurate. And to make sure of it, you need to source them properly. Here are some ways we, at emdash, approach it.

1. Find the original source. Don’t go by the first link you find. Ask ‘according to whom’ and then keep reading. For instance, if a news article claims that Gartner says something, see if Gartner have themselves published that report. If someone is quoted on a blog, see if there’s a video recording of it and reference that.

2. Use reliable sources. In the days I went to college, we were taught that news publications, magazines and books were reliable. This still holds true to a large extent. Use publications you trust. Even then, see if you can triangulate the information.

We were taught specifically not to reference Wikipedia. Turns out, in the last ten years, Wiki has become more reliable than many news publications. Anyway, if you’re using Wiki, scroll down and find the original source. 

You’ll also find a lot of “studies” sponsored by or conducted by businesses to make a point. Steer clear of them, if you can.

3. Avoid info that has circular references. An e-book quotes a paper, the paper quotes a study and the study quotes the e-book — basically no one knows where it started or if it’s true. These tend to be unfounded and mythical. Leave them be.

4. Always verify from 2-3 sources if the information you’re using is right. For instance, if any study finds that the manufacturing industry is 10 trillion dollars worth, see if there are other sources that have estimated similar numbers.

5. Before you use it, question it. Ask yourself if it really makes sense. If it feels odd or incomplete, keep looking. Don’t reference something that feels suspicious to you.

Now, while writing, make sure you quote the source. Don’t just use it like you invented it yourself. 😛 For instance, include, “As per a Gartner report” in your story.

And then hyperlink it. It’s not reliable unless it’s referenced.