How do I fix a mistake?

Mary Ann Hogan
Chips Quinn Writing Coach

Dear Coach,

Help! I made a factual error in a story, and it got through my editors. It was the date of an upcoming event, so now city officials are mad at me. My editor pointed it out after the mayor’s secretary called her. Ever since, my editor has been giving me odd looks, like she doesn’t trust me. What can I do to get myself back into her good graces? — Mistaken

Dear Mistaken,

To err is human, to correct divine. Admit your mistake, correct it promptly, dust yourself off and tell your editor you will not do it again and don’t.

To keep a mistake from happening again, you need to know why it happened in the first place. Notes too sloppy? Not double-checking information with your source? Writing off the top of your head or rewriting in a hurry and not double-checking facts from your notebook? You need to correct not just the mistake but whatever you did to cause it.

Factual errors undermine credibility. Get a reputation as someone who “gets stuff wrong,” and only the wrong stuff will happen to your career. Everyone makes mistakes. Distinguish yourself from the crowd by not repeating them.

Mary Ann Hogan’s Ask The Coach columns, first written for the Chips Quinn Scholars program, are republished with permission from the Freedom Forum Institute, 2019.

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