The endnote clue

The endnote clue

November 16, 2020 By Alex Cruden Resources

Endnote 104 was the final one in a 46-page business case study package I was editing. The case was about a global retail company’s response to a major U.S. incident in August 2019 involving a highly controversial sociopolitical issue.

The response was successful, the case study concluded. Factual proof was that the company’s fourth-quarter sales revenue was well above the total from the same period of the previous fiscal year. Consumers had voted with their dollars that the company did the right thing.

On the verge of completing many hours of work, I almost didn’t catch the problem. The source cited in endnote 104 was an online company posting of fourth-quarter 2019 financial results. It seemed completely routine. I made one slight change to adhere to style. 

OK, now where’s the date of this posting? Ah, it’s embedded in the citation’s lengthy URL. In February 2019. OK . . .

Flash! February 2019 is before the August incident. What’s going on?

It turned out that this company’s fiscal year, by which it tracked everything financial, ended in January, 11 months before the end of the calendar year. So the sales figures from fiscal year 2019 proved nothing in terms of the case subject.

Fortunately, there was plenty of other material in the 46-page package to make a good case from, including other indicators of the company response’s success. But how embarrassing it could have been for the authors and publisher to put forth a case built with a faulty cornerstone.

The lesson here for editors is to think like a detective as well as a style cop. Even all the way through endnote 104.

The Endnote Clue was originally published in Tracking Changes (Summer 2020 edition). Members receive a PDF of the quarterly Tracking Changes newsletter by email.

Header photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash.

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