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Accuracy and Writing What You Know About

Updated on February 28, 2013
Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

Barbara Anne Helberg is a Fiction freelancer, Internet writer, WordPress blogger, former Journalist, and a Famous Writers School graduate.

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Research Before Writing

Write what you know about, writers are told from day one in their schooling on putting words to paper. But regardless of what a writer knows, researching his subject matter is essential to good writing. Even if the writer can rattle off facts and figures on his subject without blinking an eye, research is the backbone of his finished work.

Internet writing sites full of misinformation and statements of facts that are actually incorrectly given lead to confusion and outright misrepresentation. The thoughtful writer who lives to put information on paper, or to use the keyboard to translate information onto the Internet, should never fall victim to this mistake.

Informational writing sites like Hubpages generally provide an editing tool with which a writer can correct any mistakes he makes in the heat of writing. He should be careful to reread his material to correct misspelled words, or to rearrange awkward sentences because the ability to do so is provided to him. That function includes correcting factual mistakes that later may be discovered in his article.

Who holds the all-time mile speed record in your article about harness racing and its stars?
Who holds the all-time mile speed record in your article about harness racing and its stars? | Source
How many times did Zenyatta win the Breeders' Cup Classic? Who did jockey Mike Smith blame in her 2010 loss?
How many times did Zenyatta win the Breeders' Cup Classic? Who did jockey Mike Smith blame in her 2010 loss? | Source

The Readers and Mistakes

Readers of all sorts will immediately jump on factual mistakes in articles, books, pamphlets, or any other vehicle of the written word. Getting the facts straight is essential for all writers. No matter how well written a piece is, skewered facts will cause the article to blow up in the face of credibility as far as readers are concerned. Readers are unrelenting in this type of observation.

Internet writers, and all writers, must be aware that what they present in writing is taken as the truth. Therefore, a writer's knowledge and his research go hand-in-hand to present material that is factually correct. That is the writer's obligation in article writing.

Examples of Internet writing mistakes in Thoroughbred horse racing articles:

Seabiscuit was one of the top three racehorses to ever run in America. ?? Correction: Man o' War, Secretariat, and Citation are the top three rated racehorses in America. Seabiscuit is rated 25th by expert racehorse writers who cover the Sport of Kings. Seabiscuit, however, was one of the most popular racehorses of his time.

Man O' War...?? Correction: Man o' War, short for Man of War, was his registered name.

The Kentucky Derby is run for two minutes and is the fastest two minutes in sports. ?? Correction: Three-year-old Thoroughbreds (male and female) exclusively run the (currently) 1-1/4 miles of the Kentucky Derby until they reach the finish line in whatever time it takes them. Only three racehorses in history have run the Derby in less than two minutes -- Secretariat (1973 winner, 1:59.40, the standing record for the race); Sham, whom Secretariat beat that day; and Monarchos (2001 winner, 1:59.97). The Kentucky Derby is considered by many to be the most exciting two minutes in sports because it takes Thoroughbreds around two minutes to perform the race.

Seabiscuit and his jockey George Woolf both recovered from leg injuries to win the "Hundred Grander". ?? Correction: Seabiscuit recovered from a suspensory ligament injury and regular jockey John "Red" Pollard recovered from a horrifically broken leg in the same time period to win the 1940 ('Hundred Grander') Santa Anita Handicap. George Woolf rode Seabiscuit throughout 1938, including in the famous match race with (4th) American Triple Crown winner War Admiral, when Pollard was out with other injuries.

What Is Significant About These Factual Mistakes?

What is significant about these factual mistakes in existing Internet articles is the fact that the actual facts are readily available in such resource material as the Thoroughbred Times Racing Almanac, Laura Hillenbrand's wonderfully researched book Seabiscuit An American Legend, the book Thoroughbred Champions Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century, and so many others. The TT Almanac alone is a categorized, statistical record of all things Thoroughbred racing that is a must resource for any writer who happily trots along the horse racing reporting path.

It's one thing to have the resources available. It's altogether another thing to make use of them. No one should completely trust his memory in such statistical writing as Thoroughbred racing, or baseball, or football. Every writer can improve his writing by taking advantage of the standard resources that exist for many different subjects.

The Great One -- Mark Twain

The Great One, Mark Twain, advised that a writer doesn't need to know everything, as long as he knows where to look for the information on the subject matter.

Any subject, sport, craft, or anything a writer has followed for a long period of time and about which he pens an article, is not always easily researched, but the resources to enhance his effort are usually to be found if he looks around. Even if Twain had his tongue in his cheek when he made his informational remark, he was, in fact, stating a writing truism.

Skimming across highlights that he may not remember correctly is no substitute for the writer gleaning the facts of the matter and presenting them conscientiously.

And adding the rich facts that surround any subject is what brings a writer's article to life.

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    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      You are so right! I've read Hubs about subjects (such as medical) that I know is not factual. The info they used was from an unreliable source. It's hard to know the truth. I usually go to Wikipedia because I feel I can trust the facts I find there.

      Voted UP, and will share.

    • Gail Meyers profile image

      Gail Meyers 4 years ago from United States

      You are so right! I am so glad someone made this point! I think writing about what you know is a great thing, but so is researching a topic that is new to you (or staying up to date on one you already enjoy). I think research should be promoted more for online writing of any kind, as you state. It seems as if one person will publish on a topic. Then 100 other people will use the idea and repeat the misinformation because they have not done any other research on it. Then the misinformation begins to appear as fact because it is all over the Internet! I have gotten to the point that I go to the library and a high authority or expert source online (such as an agricultural department of a college, the online library research material, the DSM itself instead of everyone's interpretation of it, etc). Ideally, I think there should be a few good high authority sources, not just one. Voted up and awesome!

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      I love to write research articles, and make a point of being extremely careful whenever I state a fact. You really have to double check things, and make sure that you have your facts straight. So much of what's on the Internet is unreliable. Good hub reminding people how important it is to be accurate - voted up and useful - and sharing.

    • profile image

      Barbsbitsnpieces 4 years ago

      @mary615...Thanks for your comments! I appreciate your participation on this Hub!

      Reliable sources are the building blocks of article writing. I like almanacs and other statistical resources, plus the top mags in a particular field. That's where you find expert data.

      Wikipedia is great for images, and I've found it to be a helpful additional resource.

      Yes, in the medical field, I would think, a lot of scrutiny is needed on facts. As writers on important subjects, we must always consider what information we are passing on.

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image
      Author

      Barbara Anne Helberg 4 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @Gail Meyers...Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this Hub!

      I agree with you absolutely on your explanation of how non-factual material is taken as fact when writers do no more than repeat information they've read on the Internet, rather than researching it for themselves. I think that habit may be half the problem, at least, in misinformation becoming the norm for a certain subject.

      Good research habits aren't as hard to establish as some short-cut writers may think, and it always pays off in the end to research one's material before stroking that keyboard!

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image
      Author

      Barbara Anne Helberg 4 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @mperrottet...Thank you for the compliment on this Hub!

      I also think writers should own up when a factual mistake is pointed out in something they've written and fix the error, if that editing tool exists. Also, editors are happy to have misinformation corrected, which is another reason that I thought it was important to pass along the information in this Hub.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 4 years ago

      Hi Barb,

      thanks for this hub and insight on what authors

      choose to write about. i feel as an author you should

      write about anything that comes to mind and to try

      to step outside of the box.

      thanks and voted up.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Barb, the fact that what we write is taken as truth keeps me on my toes. Research, valid and reputable, is needed on informational hub posts. Great advice and thanks for the reminder.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Valid point! There is always a chance that we may be wrong about what we know. Wise counsel for writers!

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image
      Author

      Barbara Anne Helberg 4 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @torrilyn...Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      I agree with stepping out of the box and elaborating on what comes to mind, but research (and knowledge) are the keys to producing a good piece.

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image
      Author

      Barbara Anne Helberg 4 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @teaches12345...Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      You make a valid point, as well. We sometimes forget that our statements are considered factual for the very reason that they are stated, which should fuel our fire to make certain they do really ring out the true facts!

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image
      Author

      Barbara Anne Helberg 4 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @MsDora...Thank you for adding a wise comment to the conversation on this Hub's importance! Checking the facts is always the wise decision.

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