Whether you're writing an article or posting on Social media, how you handle the truth can make or break your reputation as a writer. Finding the truth often takes some serious detective work. Fortunately, the Internet has the right tool for every occasion.
We've all seen the bogus urban legend that has floated around the web for a decade. The names are changed, not to protect the innocent, but to update the story so it appears to be a current event. What about the "news" article that is really more fiction than fact? There are a lot of sites that claim to be satire, but a better description would be tabloid. How do you distinguish between what is true and what is not?
How do you know when you click that link that you won't end up at some malicious site that will do its best to hack your accounts, steal your identity, and leave you in the land of never-ending pop-up ads.
Then there are those pages and pictures that are hands off due to copyright. You really shouldn't be reposting or reprinting them without permission, but how do you find out their origins?
Each of the following sites can help you determine the credibility and origin of what you see on the Internet.
- WOT (The Web of Trust)
- "Wot is a free community-powered website reputation service that tells you which websites you can trust based on other users' experiences. It protects you from threats that only humans can spot, such as scams, phishing, and bad online shopping experiences."
- The beauty of this service is that community members rate and/or review the websites. The links you click are distinguished by a small donut shaped icon in your browser bar that is reminiscent of colored life-saver candies.
- The white donut means the website has yet to be rated. The other WOT icons rate websites from red (most dangerous) to green (safest). WOT alerts you to websites that have malware or scams before you are caught in their web. Take the WOT tour for details on the Web of Trust.
- "Copyscape provides a free plagiarism checker for finding copies of your web pages online, as well as two more powerful professional solutions for preventing content theft and content fraud."
- The difference between writing and good writing is in the details. One of the most important details in writing is being sure of the originality of your work. Copyscape is the tool that can help you be sure that your work is, indeed, original.
- Copyscape is a useful service on several levels:
- The foremost use of Copyscape is to help you check whether or not your words are really yours. Put any text into Copyscape and it will scour the web looking for it and then let you know where it was found.
- You know it's a quote but you don't know where it's from. Put it into Copyscape and it will tell you.
- Do you think someone is using your content without your permission, i.e. infringing on your copyright? Put it into Copyscape. You're covered there as well.
- Trying to track down an Internet legend? Put it into Copyscape and find where it's been published and how long it's been floating around.
- TinEye Reverse Image Search has 16.3 billion images indexed and is growing. TinEye does for images what Copyscape does for text.
- "The snopes.com website was founded by David Mikkelson, who lives and works in the Los Angeles area. What he began in 1995 as an expression of his interest in researching urban legends has since grown into what is widely regarded by folklorists, journalists, and laypersons alike as one of the World Wide Web's essential resources."
- If you want to know if it's fact or fiction, tabloid or truth, urban legend or current event, make snopes.com your first stop. Snopes was the Internet's first fact checker and, in my opinion, remains the Internet's best.
Writing is a discipline where small details often make the difference between what is believed and what is unbelievable. These tools can help your writing build credibility with your audience as well as maintain your integrity as a writer.