Think Like an Editor blog by Steve Davis and Emilie Davis, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

Can common sense mean fewer errors?

By · Saturday, June 14th, 2014

In a New York Times opinion piece, columnist Joe Nocera makes a case for why some material should be delinked by Google for privacy purposes. The column is aptly titled: “Try a Little Common Sense.”

Common sense is underrated and often under appreciated. But it is a trait that all of us can put to good use if we merely take the time to think.

For journalists attempting to publish content that is free of errors, one tip is to visualize as you write. Think about the words. Read what you have just written. Sometimes the most glaring errors are missed, but they can be spotted easily by using this simple method.

Here’s an example:

 A story about an environmental “green roof” explains the process — a thin layer of soil is placed on top of a regular roof and then covered with vegetation. 

 Visualize what you just read.

The story later states that workers placed 3 feet of soil on the roof.

Picture this, too. Stop and think about it.

Is 3 feet a thin layer? Can you picture 3 feet of soil on the roof of a building? Workers actually covered the roof with 3 inches of soil, not 3 feet of soil.

This is a simple example. But it can serve as an easy-to-remember model in the attempt to avoid errors: Question anything that does not make sense.

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