Tip No. 7: Check your work.
Old-school “experts” are wont to claim that “amateur” bloggers can’t produce polished sportswriting. Members of B/R’s Writer Program have been proving them wrong since 2006—but the battle begins anew every day, and none of us is any more reputable than his or her last published article.
If you want to help us build on the gains we’ve made to date, it’s imperative that you scrupulously review each of your submissions for three forms of credibility-killing errors.
1. Spelling and grammatical errors
Nothing ruins an otherwise-stellar article like a glaring typo. Spelling and grammatical errors convey an impression of authorial carelessness to discriminating readers, who are exceptionally unlikely to take your work seriously if you don’t engage in a process of serious proofreading.
B/R’s article submission interface features a built-in spell-checker; all writers are required to use this feature before publishing content on the network. The savviest B/R authors also subject their work to grammatical checks provided by applications like Microsoft Word—which takes a few extra minutes of labor, but which is well worth the effort over the long run. In the final judgment, it’s hard to imagine how you could conscientiously adopt a less rigorous standard if you want your work to stand the test of time.
2. Content and style errors
As noted in the B/R Writer Orientation, the network’s Content Standards and Style Guide were designed to preserve the integrity of the B/R brand. More to the point, they were designed to help every B/R author present his or her work in a professional manner—and thus to establish his or her standing as a respected figure in the blogosphere.
Before you publish your first B/R article, you owe it both to yourself and to your fellow writers to thoroughly review the site’s content and style rules. In the weeks and months ahead, you should further commit yourself to digesting and internalizing the stylistic feedback you receive from members of B/R’s trained Copy Editing Team, with the ultimate goal of producing perfectly-polished prose. Real “perfection” is, of course, an unreachable goal—but even if you fall a little short, you can take solace in the fact that you’ve fulfilled your obligations to yourself and your peers.
3. Factual errors
The goal of every journalist—indeed the duty of every journalist—is to tell the truth. In that respect, it’s incumbent on you to verify the accuracy of each bit and byte of information you publish on B/R.
In fact-checking your submissions, you should confirm both “established” data like statistics and historical events and “speculative” data like trade rumors and secondhand news reports. No less importantly, you should also include explicit in-text citations for any material you borrow from another textual, video, or audio source in order to corroborate your own work. That kind of attention to detail constitutes the “professionalism” of a professional sportswriter—and you’d do well to make it second nature as you embark on your own career.