Friday, June 4, 2010

This One's For the Editors: Regret the Error Seminar

Occasionally, I like to post on items related to editors and editing specialties. This is one of those times, as this morning I attended a seminar on "Preventing Factual Errors in Writing and Editing" delivered by the famous (to, um, me and other word and journalism types) Craig Silverman, author of Regret the Error and host of its related website.

Silverman (whose blog today highlights a hilarious "Hadron Collider"/"Hardon Collider" typo at Reuters) seems to have done a fair bit of research on why humans make errors, and what can be done to correct them.

Silverman said that one thing we should bring to error is a sense of curiosity, rather than excessive shame, which would keep us from analyzing its causes.

Also, he basically offered stories about how the complexity of many of our systems is now too much for our brains to manage, particularly when we are under pressure. As a result, one of the main tools we can use to avoid errors (whether we are heart surgeons or decidedly less life-and-death-dice-rolling proofreaders) is the humble checklist.

He noted that the plane that successfully landed on the Hudson River after its engines lost power last year not only had a great pilot, but a great copilot who dutifully read through the airplane manual checklists for "landing on water when your engines have lost power."

Silverman also pointed to the newish book on checklist effectiveness in preventing death (!) by New Yorker writer and surgeon Atul Gawande.

Silverman also offers a free accuracy checklist for writers and editors here. While I haven't run this post through it (heh, heh... hm) I feel somewhat saved. Alleluia! I've seen the (red-pen) light.

1 comment:

Craig Silverman said...

Thanks for attending my workshop. I'm glad it was helpful, and I wish you best of luck with your checklist-aided editing!