Editing isn’t important….right? by Melinda Anderson

I have just spent three hours helping my husband to study for a General Painting Contractors License to cover certain states in the midwest. The experience has been highly entertaining and informative. In fact, it has been so entertaining that I have chosen to share a few of the questions from the practice tests he has been studying. Let’s start with something very basic such as extra words.

“What should aluminum be wiped with what after weathering?”

Now, you might have quickly read this question and your eyes may have stumbled but you got the gist of the question. You might have even read it agin just to make sure. However, let’s pretend for five minutes that you have a reading disability. You might read this question like this:

“What should aluminum be wiped with what? After weathering.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have made several errors just like this one. Writing is not perfect, however, the author of this question could have taken at least 5 seconds to read the question thereby discovering the extra word.

Most of the questions are the standard multiple choice with one or two answers. This next example is confusing because the sentence has blank spaces for two answers but only one is needed.

“A HEPA sanding abatement method removes _____________ and _________________ coating.”

( ) lead based
( ) epoxy based
( ) primer based
( ) none of the above”

I read this and I automatically assumed that two answers are needed because there are two blank spaces. I quickly scanned my choices looking for one with two answers. I expected something like ( ) lead and epoxy based or ( ) both 1 and 2.  As you can see, there is not a selection with two answers. I reread the question and looked at the answers again. I quickly realized that someone had made a mistake and no one had caught it.

I don’t want this post to be longer than necessary so let me sum up the rest of the errors really quick, missing articles, misused prepositions, conflicting information, and misused punctuation. These are just the common errors that I, a lowly technical writer, discovered in three hours while helping my husband study.

These materials are supposed to be designed to help a student learn. However, errors like these only confuse a student and make the learning process even more difficult.

I guess whoever wrote these materials did not consider the student’s need. After all, why bother editing if you don’t care about your audience.

By Melinda Anderson

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2 comments

    1. Actually, my husband did share our mutual frustration. The person in charge was flying to California to meet with the group who wrote the test to explain his frustration and his clients frustration. hopefully, something will change.

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