Length of test
Everything is up for grabs here and the first consideration is how much a candidate could reasonably be expected to get through in 45 minutes. How long a job takes is as long as the proverbial piece of string. Since the client has set the bar high we have made the tests around 1200 words long.
What to test
The source text is relatively clean so we have to make some imaginative tweaks to catch the unwary. Ninety-eight per cent of the time we agree on what is an error, what a competent editor would be expected to know and what should be queried. After all, knowing when to query is as important as knowing when to change and what to change it to.
The other 2 per cent of the time we discuss arcane matters such as punctuation of captions and the correct placement of a possessive apostrophe at the end of a proper noun ending with s. Double punctuation at the end of a sentence was another issue that had us scurrying to the reference books.
There’s no shame in looking things up. If you aren’t regularly seeing sentences with double punctuation, and most of us aren’t, why should you have the rules on the tip of your tongue?
Typographic conventions are a target as well, such as what should be italicised and what should be in roman and in quotes, how numbers are used and when to use an en-rule. There are a host of these and a competent editor should carry many of them in his or her (his/her or their) head.
Grammar, grammar, grammar
It’s not easy to write convincingly bad English as often errors can seem rather contrived. The aim is to modify what’s there so it is grammatically incorrect but sounds natural. My personal discovery of the week is just how difficult it is to contrive a dangling modifier in a given context. However, examples are not hard to find, and here are a couple to help you enjoy the holiday season.