terry gault
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subbing test introduction
subbing test answers




















The 100-word sub-editing test


The errors:

In the biggest investment in the Town1 of Croydon for year’s2, the Council3 has spent £0.5m on improving the Market4 and they have5 also6 provided £1 million7 on8 leisure facilties9 too10 .
In the 1980’s11, the spend12 on such projects was minimal compared to13 now. The new14 inovative15 thinking follows Public16 pressure: The17 voices of people which18 wanted change rose to a crescendo19 until the funds were found. In an enquiry20 before development begun21 22 town’s people23 could raise objections. None were24 recieved25.
“Croydon’s in the premiere26 league for shopping and leisure27 said one official. “Its28 entered into29 a new era in services”.30

The explanations:
1. No capital needed. Unless it's part of an official name, for example City of Derry, 'town' is a common noun.
2. No apostrophe. This is a simple plural.
3. Council shouldn't have a capital. It's another common noun.
4. Market, similarly, is not a proper noun, so doesn't have a capital letter.
5. The council is singular (note 'the council has...'). It should read 'it has...'.
6. Having already said 'and' there's no need for 'also'. It's a tautology.
7. Previously we used the abbreviation m for million. It should be consistent here. Either way will do.
8. Spend on but provide for.
9. Facilities was misspelt.
10. As with item 6, we don't need 'too'.
11. The 1980s is a simple plural. No apostrophe.
12. Spend is a verb. Although increasingly (ab)used as a noun, no decent editor would allow this ugly usage.
13. Compared with. Compare one thing with a similar thing (eg one year with another). Compare to is used to liken something to something different: 'Shall I compare thee to a Summers day?' (Note: my version of Shakespeare does use a capital S and plural.)
14. Innovative is, by definition, new. 'New' is, therefore, unnecessary.
15. Innovative is misspelt.
16. Public should not have an initial capital.
17. Start a new sentence with a capital letter. After a colon there is no capital. Equally, score a point if you changed the colon to a full stop.
18. The people who...
19. A crescendo is the rising to a peak, not the peak itself.
20. An inquiry is a public investigation. An enquiry is a question.
21. Began
22. A comma is needed here
23. Townspeople is correct.
24. None was... None is a contraction of not one. One is singular.
25. Received is misspelt.
26. Premier league. Premiere is an opening night. Premier is foremost.
27. Comma missing. It should read: ... leisure," said...
28. It's. A contraction of it has. The apostrophe denotes the letters missed out.
29. To enter means to go into. 'Into' is, therefore, unnecessary.
30. The full stop is punctuating the sentence within the quotation marks, so that is where it should be too. ('...services.")

I reckon a professional wordsmith — or an English teacher — should seriously worry about a score below 20. I reckon the average person in the street should feel proud of a score above 20, but worry if it is below 12 – though I suspect that's the likely level of quite a few of today's television news reporters.

But these scores are just a guess. Let me know how you did and if you are a writer, journalist, editor or just a member of the public. If I get a decent sample I'll publish results to show how amateurs fared against the professionals.

Please note that I haven't yet met a sub-editor who was perfect. You may find things I missed. You may have different opinions.
Feel free to let me know.