#inden {text-indent: 25px }

Monday, January 08, 2007

Truth vs. Accuracy

Can a statement be accurate but not true?

In clearing one of the many paper-burdened horizontal surfaces in my house, I opened my February-March 2005 issue of Copy Editor, a newsletter I have loved for many years as an editor. In the column where readers send in questions, someone inquires about the "strict difference" between the words accurate and true.

The answer, provided by Barbara Wallraff, captures a point vital to writing narrative nonfiction. In the movie Absence of Malice, a reporter writes a page-one story about a businessman. The information was accurate, but she presented it in such a way that led readers to jump to the wrong conclusions. This treatment qualifies as "accurate but not true." Wallraff continues with another example. Say that two police officers stopped at her house and asked if she wanted to buy tickets to their annual party. It would be accurate to say that "Police officers questioned Wallraff at her home." But that statement would not be true. Wallraff concludes, "An accurate statement is factually correct; a true statement, besides being accurate, should mean what it seems to mean."



Post a Comment

<< Home