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Editorial Tests: A Useful Way of Assessing Proofreaders and Editors?

Editorial tests have long been used to assess the skills and abilities of proofreaders and editors. They usually consist of passages of text deliberately littered with ambiguity, inaccuracy and any number of spelling and grammatical errors. The idea is that such texts will assess the accuracy of the proofreader and provide a useful benchmark of their abilities when compared against other professionals.

Are they, however, a truly useful way of assessing proofreaders?

The debate rages on between proofreaders as to the usefulness of such tests. Many say they can be used as a way to ‘scam’ free work out of a proofreader (with different sections of a main work sent to a number of proofreaders as ‘editorial tests’) with those in the opposite camp describing them as opportunities for ‘effective professional development.’

Whatever the view of the proofreading community, there is little doubt that when an individual or business wants to employ the services of a proofreader, they need something to indicate the quality of work they can expect. If a hospital was going to employ a doctor or nurse, or a law firm was looking to hire a new lawyer, the qualifications they have provide an indication of knowledge. The experience they possess would also give some warranty as to their ability to put their knowledge into practice. The employer would evidence these competencies through an interview. For proofreaders, however, how do you give evidence of competency during a conversation? After all, it’s not feasible to ‘proof’ someone’s spoken word.

Of course, proofreaders can have qualifications in the subject matter, and yes, the majority of proofreaders will have a great deal of experience and references to draw on. To a prospective client however, all this is speculation whereas an editorial test can provide concrete evidence of a proofreader’s ability. Indeed, such is the endorsement of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, the professional body for proofreaders, who also employ the use of editorial tests as a way of benchmarking individuals against set standards when assessing their suitability for membership of the society.

Proofreading is a skill that requires much more than the ability to spell. It requires high levels of competence in the English language as well as a skill for observation and an ability to understand complex and obscure subjects (occasionally!) from different points of view.

If you’re writing your latest novel, working on a suite of marketing materials for your business or about to submit an important document, my recommendation is that you should always employ a proofreader to give you that additional certainty that your document portrays the professional image you desire.

Don’t let poor spelling and grammar ruin your latest work. Get in touch today for a professional proofreading service. Call me on 07545 583 102, email me at or use my contact form here.


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