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Internet distractions affect quality of copy editor’s work

By on October 11, 2011No Comment

Until recently, I was editor-in-chief of a print magazine, Web site and newsletter, and as such, in charge of hiring copy editors. A few months ago, while hiring a new copy editor, I gave all candidates the same test, a printout of a long paragraph riddled with errors, and asked them to correct it by hand, using only a red pen and the reference books we had on hand (AP Stylebook, Chicago Manual of Style, Webster’s dictionary and a culinary dictionary). They were not permitted to use the Internet at all, as I wanted to test their core resourcefulness, abilities and knowledge.

We hired a candidate who had performed best on the test, finding more than 95% of its errors, and doing so very quickly. However, when she actually started working for us, the percentage of errors she missed while copy editing grew alarmingly (sometimes up to 50%), and it soon became clear why.

She was now copy editing on her computer, and while working, also had a variety of social media platforms and Websites up (many of which she also used for fact checking and copy editing). While performing her copy editing and other duties, and using the Internet to do so, she was also socializing online and had become increasingly distracted by the information overload.

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