How to Find the Right Editor, Part 3: Testing an Editor

by Erin Brenner
You spend a lot of time sweating the small stuff in your manuscript, employing all the skills and gifts at your disposal. But at some point, you have to let someone else handle your copy. You have to hire an editor. In this series, we’ll explore how to find and hire the right editor for your manuscript.
In part three: how to test an editor and review recommendations.

Test Your Editor

It’s OK to want proof of an editor’s abilities. You do it for other services, why not editing? One way is to see an editor’s past work: viewing marked-up documents and final pieces.

But a better way to judge an editor’s ability is to test her. Your company may have an editing test floating around, one that tests an editor’s knowledge of grammar rules and the like. This is good. The test shouldn’t be too long (about an hour to complete is reasonable).

Even better, though, and what I offer all my clients for free, is to have her edit a sample of your copy. Again, the sample shouldn’t be too long; 500-700 words is what I like to see. Try to take something from the middle of the piece. The beginning and the end have either been picked over several times and are in better shape or are in the early stages and are still rough. Either one would give you and the editor a false idea of what the copy needs.

When you read through the results, ask yourself: Does the copy read better? Do I like the way it sounds? Did she miss any glaring errors? Did she introduce errors into the copy? (Quelles horreurs!) Did she ask good questions when he had concerns? Present good solutions?


Sometimes the competition for a project or an ongoing relationship is fierce. References are a good place to distinguish one editor from another. LinkedIn allows users to post recommendations to others’ profiles. This is a handy place to start. You can also check out the editor’s Web site for client reviews. Or search on the editor’s name or company name in a search engine. Do you find accolades or regrets?

If your project is particularly large—or you will feed this editor lots of projects—ask to speak to past clients. Talk to someone whose project is similar to yours, so you can make an apples-to-apples comparison.

In This Series

This article originally appeared on The Writing Resource.

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