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How to Handle an Editorial Test, Part 1: Before the Test

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on June 17, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionYeah, you thought you were done with tests when you chose to enter the Hamster World. Not so. If you decided to parlay your Humanities MA or PhD into an editorial career, you will likely encounter the dreaded editorial test as you apply to jobs. Here are some tips to prepare for yet another test:

Get to know the editorial test format. Editorial tests are administered to applicants as a weed-out process. Not only does the employer want to know if you can catch edits, but the employer also wants to know if you can handle the content they publish. Typically, you will have to edit a piece of content that the employer has published before, only the employer has packed it with errors for you to find.

Ask for a copy of the employer’s style guide. Before you take any editorial test, you need to know the employer’s standards. The employer might not give you the company’s entire style guide, but he or she will probably say if the company uses The Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Stylebook.

More after the jump! Still from the movie Rock River Renegades. Public domain on Wikimedia Commons.

Find out if the test is on computer or on paper.
Most of the tests I’ve taken have been on paper, although I’ve heard of a few that are on computers. If they are on the computer, be wary of what spell-checker programs tell you. Also, the “Find and Replace” feature can be your best friend if you are hunting down multiple instances of the same error.

Become familiar with proofreading symbols.
The Chicago Manual of Style has a page of proofreading symbols. Merriam-Webster also has a handy list.

Bring a dictionary and a copy of the preferred style guide with you. In many cases, the tests are open book, so you may as well be prepared. Do not plan on using the books as a crutch, though, or they will slow you down.

Don’t forget a pen and a pencil with an eraser. You might think that the employer has plenty of pencils and pens to go around, but you never know. The last thing you need is to panic because you don’t have a writing implement.

Next up … tips for getting through the actual test!

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