Can you refer me to your favorite online copy editing test? I may have an in-person editing test for a new job next week, and I think I’ve developed some bad habits after seven years with the same company. I’d like to give my brain a workout beforehand. Thanks!
Well, I can’t really refer you to any one online editing test that I know is reliable, but I can help. Every editing test I’ve ever taken has been job-specific, and I’ve never been in charge of hiring other editors, so there’s not a particular test that I know is really useful. After some basic googling, I think these might be a good place to start: Dow Jones editing tests (including answers), this little digital quiz with an error density similar to some tests I’ve taken, and an advanced-level test from the Subversive Copy Editor, Carol Fisher Saller (answers in the following blog post).
But I haven’t taken all those quizzes, and they’re certainly not all applicable to every job. So I have another, more practical tip for you, which is that you can easily test and practice your editing skills without an editing test. It doesn’t come with an answer sheet, sure, but then neither does actual copy editing work, so you should be used to that.
I recommended this technique in the “How to Learn a Style Guide in 10 Days” presentation I gave at ACES this spring. All you have to do is find some unedited text—say, a blog post or a press release—get out whatever style guide, dictionary, and other reference tools your would-be employer uses, and edit it just the way you would if it came across your desk a month from now at your new job.
The trick, of course, is to look up every. single. thing. Don’t treat it like something for your current publication, where you’ve already learned the ropes; pretend you’re trying to impress a new employer and make yourself to question all your assumptions. This will help you get up to speed on the new publication’s style guide while hopefully also rooting out a few of those tricky “rules” whose provenance you’ve forgotten and that may turn out to be baseless.
This method has two advantages over just taking traditional copy editing tests. The first is that you should be able to find unedited copy that covers the same subject as the publication you hope to work for does, so the words and rules you wind up learning or relearning are the ones most likely to be relevant. The second is that it’s going to be much more effective at breaking you out of old habits than a traditional copy editing test. You’ll be exposed to a wider range of editors, and without the safety net of an answer sheet, you’re forced to become a much more critical reviewer of your own work, which should help you absorb lessons faster.
Best of luck at your interview, Brian! Let me know how it works out.