“Good editing is invisible. Bad editing is painfully obvious—usually because the editor has, instead of clarifying the author’s intent, attempted to rewrite in the editor’s own style. Editors are there to remove, rearrange, and altogether improve, not to make the writing their own.”
When fact-checking (fiction or nonfiction, your document or someone else’s), watch out for restrictive words: always, every, never, only. Inevitably, there will be an outlier.
For example, did you know:
- not all owls are nocturnal?
- not all lizards are cold-blooded?
- not all deserts are hot?
- all tortoises are turtles, but not all turtles are tortoises?
The best thing you can be as a fact-checker is skeptical. If something doesn’t sound quite right, research it using scientific sources (i.e., not Wikipedia), and if you need to make a change to someone else’s document, cite the source(s).
But what about when you’re writing without the use of a specific source, condensing the knowledge you’ve gained from books, articles, films, etc. into a piece with your name as the author? That’s when it’s time to learn about the connection between “common knowledge” and plagiarism.
Broadly speaking, common knowledge refers to information that the average, educated reader would accept as reliable without having to look it up. This includes:
Information that most people know, such as that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or that Barack Obama was the first American of mixed race to be elected president.
Information shared by a cultural or national group, such as the names of famous heroes or events in the nation’s history that are remembered and celebrated.
Knowledge shared by members of a certain field, such as the fact that the necessary condition for diffraction of radiation of wavelength from a crystalline solid is given by Bragg’s law.
However, what may be common knowledge in one culture, nation, academic discipline or peer group may not be common knowledge in another.
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