Saturday, 21 July 2012

editing the uneditable

My classes were not going that well. And so, some time last month, in a moment of weakness (which lasted couple of days actually), I sent a few job applications. To keep myself and my CV in shape. So to speak.

To my surprise, I got a human-written response from one of the companies straight away. The job was a freelance editor, and I was sent an editing exercise consisting of three “extracts from papers to be published in international journals”. One of them was in the area of biochemistry, another medicine, and third pharmacology. I was asked to edit at least one of the text(s) using the change tracking tool and mark my time.

It seems that I did underestimate the difficulty of the task. I chose one abstract only (biochemistry) hoping to complete the editing in one hour. In fact I spent more than three hours. Frankly, this was the worst piece of “scientific writing” (no I cannot omit the quotes) I ever seen. Yes I understand that English is not the author’s native language. Even so, I started to doubt whether it even was a real abstract. Maybe it was specifically designed to test editor’s ability to remain sane. Or maybe, as Tamara suggested, it was some sort of crowdsourcing exercise and the company never intended to hire anyone in the first place. I sent the completed task away and forgot about if for a while.

But let’s assume that these abstracts/extracts are real. It is my deep conviction that humankind would lose nothing if they were never published. If the authors are unable to formulate what is the point of their work, in whatever language, with or without external help, these texts shouldn’t even have reached the editorial office. Ever. Period.

To my surprise, one month later I got the response from the company thanking me for taking the test. The letter proceeded to say that, regrettably, the test did not meet their (unspecified) benchmark for freelancers and therefore they were unable to consider my application any further.

I should say that I feel relieved.