Proofreader Testing

Proofreaders Applicants. Practical job-training for proofreaders has declined along with its status as a craft, although many commercial and college-level proofreading courses of varying quality can be found online. There are also available numerous books that instruct the basics to their readers. Such tools of self-preparation have by and large replaced formal workplace-instruction.

Proofreader Testing

Proofreader applicants are tested primarily on their spelling, speed, and skill in finding errors in sample text. Towards that end, they may be given a list of ten or twenty classically difficult words and a proofreading test, both tightly timed. The proofreading test will often have a maximum number of errors per quantity of text and a minimum amount of time to find them. The goal of this approach is to identify those with the best skill-set.

Take a test: Proofreaders Test

A contrasting approach to testing is to identify and reward persistence more than an arbitrarily high level of expertise. For the spelling portion of the test, that can be accomplished by providing a dictionary; lengthening the word-list conspicuously; and making clear that the test is not timed. For the proofreading portion a suitable language-usage reference book (e.g., The Chicago Manual of Style) can be provided. (Note that knowing where to find needed information in such specialized books is itself an effective component of the test.) Removing the pressure of what is essentially an ASAP deadline will identify those applicants with marginally greater reservoirs of persistence, stamina, and commitment. At the same time, by mooting the need for applicants to make use of a memorized list of difficult words and a studied knowledge of the more common grammatical traps (affect, effect, lay, lie), applicants learn that their success depends primarily on a quality at least theoretically available to anyone at any time without preparation.

Formal employee-testing is usually planned and announced well in advance, and may have titles, such as Levels Testing, Skills Evaluation, etc. They are found in corporate or governmental environments with a large enough HR staff to devote to preparing and administering the tests.

Informal employee-testing takes place whenever a manager feels the need to take a random sampling of a proofreader's work by double-reading selected pages. Usually this is done without warning, and sometimes it will be done secretly. It can be highly effective, and there will certainly be times when such re-reading is justified, but care must be taken.

There are two basic approaches. The first is to re-read a proof within its deadline and in the department itself. Thus the manager will read from the same copy that the first reader saw, and be aware of any volume and deadline pressures the first reader was under, and can directly observe the individual in real time. This approach can also be followed as a matter of routine. The goal then is not to confirm a specific suspicion of poor job-performance by a particular reader, but rather to confirm a general assumption that the proofreading staff needs ongoing monitoring.

The second approach to informal testing is to wait for some days or weeks and then, as time allows, randomly select proofs to re-read while outside the department. Such proofs may or may not be accompanied by the copy pages that the proofreader saw. Here the re-reader is examining the proof from the perspective of typographical and formatting accuracy alone, ignoring how many other pages the first reader had read that day, and had yet to read, and how many pages were successfully read and how many deadlines were met under a given day's specific conditions.

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