300 Days of Better Writing

July 1, 2014

Provide credible references for new or controversial information.

Unless you are a recognized expert about a topic, your reader will have no reason to believe what you write. For example, I could tell you, “You shouldn’t eat eggplant. It’s bad for you.” You will ask, rightly, “What makes you an expert on eggplant?”

Unless the reader has a reason to believe that you are an expert on the topic, you need to provide a reference. A reference gives credibility to the information. A reference provides the source of the information you are communicating. This is especially important if your information is controversial, new, or contradictory to what the reader believes.

Name the source of the information, if known. If you have specific names, use them. This sentence contains a credible reference: “Louise Wilson, a researcher at the University of Nebraska, claims that people should not eat eggplant.”

You can also be more general, if needed, by using titles and descriptors, such as researchers, industry experts, or government officials. For example, you can write, “Nutritionists claim that people should not eat eggplant.”

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