Sunday, January 4, 2009

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

For the most part—and to our endless chagrin—editors are not judged on the value we add to the writings we work on, through the errors we fix and other improvements we make.

No, our performance is assessed primarily on the mistakes we fail to correct. An editor can make hundreds of edits (literally thousands in a book-length work), but his overall contribution might be remembered for the one missing period he overlooked.

This approach to the performance appraisal of editors extends to, or more precisely begins at, the editing tests we are required to take when applying for jobs—regardless of how much experience we have.

How many other professions require a very experienced applicant to demonstrate his skills prior to employment? In the vast majority of cases, it is the resume—and the validation of it through reference checks and other means—that serves as proof of the applicant’s stated experience.

And to add to the unfairness of the testing requirement, editing tests generally are not administered on a computer, which would allow the editor to utilize two of the main tools of the trade—MS Word’s spell and grammar checkers.

Rather, the test involves working on hard copy only. In effect, editor applicants are handcuffed by editing “manually.” This doesn’t simulate the real world we’ll work in because it deprives us of critical resources that normally are at our disposal.