Made you look, didn’t I?
It’s true. A couple of years ago, I took a technical editing test for someone who runs an editorial services company, of which many clients are suppliers to the government. The test comprised a spelling section and a practical section. The latter was a six-page proposal (I’m sure there’s a special term for it, but I’m not aware of what it would be) in a Word file. The instructions were to edit for prose flow, AmE idiom (not use of idioms, per se, but “natural” wording), and GUMmy stuff.
I took my best shot, and sent it off.
And I heard nothing.
For … well, a couple of years. So I assumed, after a month or so had passed, that my performance was subpar, and I kept on trucking. After all, technical editing (which is what this test was all about) hasn’t been my forte for decades, literally. I cut my teeth on it, but I’ve been a copy and fiction editor for the last five years running.
Eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I DMed the business owner on Twitter to ask about that test. We’re mutual followers, and we have a very pleasant, cordial, businesslike relationship in the Twitterverse. She was horrified to have let my test fall through the metaphorical cracks, and her apology was profuse. Before too long, an email popped into my inbox with my test attached, annotated with her commentary.
Yeah, I failed that one. And that’s all right. Not everyone is meant to be a technical editor. Not everyone is meant to be a fiction editor. They’re very different skill sets. I started out as a tech editor, yes, but in the years following I’ve moved away from it. Fiction editing suits me. Learning about the writing craft interests me. Tracking whether an acronym uses a slash or a hyphen or nothing does not suit me. (And it’s something PerfectIt3 is meant for. Obviously, I didn’t use software to take a test. Duh.)
That’s not to say I don’t notice anything like “there’s a hyphen here but a slash there.” I do notice, most of the time. Why didn’t I catch that on this test? I don’t know. I could make excuses like “the text was hard to read/too small” (so enlarge it, Karen, you dipshit) or “I was glazing over from the subject matter” (yep, that’ll happen, but it’s no excuse). The simple fact is, I didn’t do a good job. I failed to perform adequately for the tester’s standards.
And that’s okay. Maybe subconsciously I didn’t want that job, so I slacked off. I don’t remember. It was a couple of years ago.
I failed a technical editing test. That doesn’t mean I’m not a fantastic fiction editor. It doesn’t mean I don’t know grammar. It doesn’t mean I can’t spot plot holes, characterization issues, or continuity errors.
It means I suck at editing dry technical material.
I’m okay with that.