How to Manage Published Article Errors & Criticism With Grace
Writers on websites without a copy-editor or copy-editing department must be their own editor. No one tells you this when you began your website and started sharing your thoughts with the world. It should, however, have been obvious.
When you write a film, TV show episode review, or an article of any kind, the most laborious and lengthy process afterward is the editing process.
When you are editing and reading a sentence, sometimes you are reading the sentence from your mind and what you have typed doesn’t match. It takes, sometimes, multiple editing passes to discover these discrepancies (along with normal typos, etc.) and correct them.
Over the years, I have come across numerous spelling errors in the title tag and in the body of articles on entertainment news websites. I never commented on these errors to the author. I always made a mental note, though, when I saw these errors – stay vigilant.
Disastrous Editing Scenario
Recently I skipped a few editing passes for a television show episode review I had written in lieu of publication expediency. I “thought” everything was correct. I “thought” everything was spelled correctly and that I had made the correct word choices. I was incorrect. I had let two errors slip past my radar that two more editing passes would have caught. Here is what made the matter even worse. A new reader was the person that discovered the errors. He had been attracted to my movie and TV show news website via a search engine search. He had been searching for a review for the premiere episode of an upcoming TV show season.
Those errors were his first impression of my writing ability and the website on which they were housed.
He left a sarcastic comment on the review, pointing out the spelling error and incorrect word choice.
Lemons into Lemonade
Here is how I turned this negative situation into a positive one and how you can as well:
1. Correct the error immediately.
I had used “tragedy” instead of “strategy” and “than” instead of “then.” I made the necessary changes and saved the new published draft.
2. Make four-to-six editing passes if you have no copy-editor or copy-editing department (most of us don’t) within your website or news organization.
The best method – The Gold Rule of Self-editing (I may have just coined that) – is to put down your written piece for a day and come back to it with fresh eyes 24 hours later for another editing pass.
3. Show grace and be communicative when an error is pointed out in the comments section of your article.
Be thoughtful when an error or errors (God forbid) are pointed out to you by a commentator. It’s not the commentators fault that your work was published with an error (or errors). It’s your fault.
4. Be humble not defensive.
Engage the commentator as an ally and not as an enemy. The commentator took the time to read and comment on your article, even if he pointed out its grammatical flaws. Take the time to answer his or her comment. Create a friendly and receptive environment for the commentator. If the commentator doesn’t like you, why would he or she bother to read your future publications or return to your website?
Example: I replied to the commentator with humility and thanked the commentator for his candor and the errors he pointed out. He probably wasn’t expecting that but that is what I did.
He replied back two weeks later, thanking me for my gracious reply.
I didn’t want to respond to his criticisms in that way. Human nature kicked in. I wanted to be sardonic but I thought better of it. By not stooping to that level, by not indulging that defense / lash out impulse, and by positively engaging with him, I created a welcoming environment for a new site visitor and commentator, hopefully one he returns to in the future.
If you get a criticism on the editing of an article you publish, don’t get depressed or anger. It’s an opportunity. Fix it then use it.
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