My Patience, Tested

So, I applied for an intensive, short-term gig editing PowerPoint presentations. I’ve created many of these over the years, and edited even more.

In my view, the key to a good visual presentation is to not make it too wordy – think bullet points, not full sentences – to prompt the presenter and reinforce the spoken word.

As a speaker, what you don't want is to stand there and read your slides – or for your audience to sit and read them instead of paying attention to you. 

Yes, I'm well prepared for this assignment!

Then I received a message from a testing company associated with the employer, informing me that I am required to take U.S. English grammar and proofreading skills tests.

Oh boy. The email gave no clue about how long or detailed the tests would be, and said I had one week to take them.

Test anxiety kicked in almost immediately, and I put it off for three days. This morning, coffee steaming beside me, I opened the grammar test and stared, open-mouthed, at terms I hadn't thought about since high school. (It's been a while.)

"Find the pronoun-antecedent agreement error." "Choose the option that corrects the parallellism error." And so on. I had 40 minutes to answer 40 questions about dangling participles, misplaced modifiers, etc.

I waded through them and honestly have no idea how well, or how poorly, I did.

For years, I've written instinctively – and primarily for the ear – not for my long-ago English teachers. I've made my own way as a journalist and an author, despite having very little formal training.

Of course, this might mean that I don't end up editing these particular PowerPoint presentations.

However, this nerve-wracking experience has had the side benefit of reinforcing how complex and beautiful the English language is, and how important it is to keep learning about it.