Trust, But Verify: Why Editing your own Work is a Must
By Vince Cyboran, Ed.D.
Imagine that you are writing an article about T&D consulting contracts. As you work, the phrase “Trust, but verify” pops into your head. It is, after all, an apt quote. And, if you are like countless others who can remember events of the 1980’s, the phrase is vaguely familiar. But because you want to attribute this phrase to someone, you have a nagging suspicion that you are not at all certain of its origin. Indeed, you will have to turn this phrase into an active practice.
I pose the following question to you, Dear Reader: “Trust, but verify” is…
- A Russian proverb
- A quote from President Reagan
The best answer is “3.” It is a Russian proverb, introduced to President Reagan by an historian of Russian studies, Suzanne Massie. I know this because I checked. But did I have to?
If I were delivering an informal presentation on T&D consulting contracts—and not attributing the phrase to a specific person—it would acceptable to reference the phrase to bolster the argument for self-editing, and to leave it at that. However, in a more formal situation—as is the case with a written article in which an attribution will be used—checking the specific origin of the phrase is a must. Though it would not be incorrect to simply attribute the quote to President Reagan, it is simply more accurate to also note that it is a Russian proverb.
From this example, we can conclude that context matters in editing. By this, I mean that the context determines the level of specificity required. And, the higher the level of specificity required determines how much self-editing we need to do.
Let’s take another example. You have just completed your graduate work at Roosevelt University within the Graduate Program in Training and Development, and you are updating your resume. You have not studied Organization Development. Which of the following items is the correct title of the degree you have just earned?
- Master of Arts in Training and Development
- Masters of Art in Training and Development
- Masters in Training & Development
The correct answer is “a.” Standard graduate degrees in the United States are termed ‘Master of Arts in …’ and ‘Master of Science in…’ Though individual institutions may vary from the standard, it is up to each of us to double-check. A resume is a very important document. The accuracy—or lack, thereof–of the information contained in it is crucial. To err on something such as a degree title gives the reviewer of the resume pause: “What kind of employee will this be?” Incorrect information lessens your credibility.
When our errors are pointed out to us, it is tempting to become defensive and to respond along the lines of: “But I thought it was.” Such a strategy rarely succeeds in the workplace, and, even if it does, it won’t work for long.
At this point, Dear Reader, you may be asking yourself: “Why would I check something that I think is correct?” Fair question. The answer is: Because your memory is not perfect. Checking your own work has nothing to do with innate intelligence; it has to do with human frailty and with professionalism.
- What is your approach to editing your own work?
- Do you have a web site to recommend that you find useful when editing your own work?