An American Editor

September 19, 2012

The Business of Editing: Macros for Editors and Authors

Times are getting tougher for the editing community. As has been discussed in earlier articles, pressure is being exerted by the publishing community to lower fees and what should be a natural market for editors — the indie author market in this age of ebooks — has not really developed as expected. Too many indie authors are unable or unwilling to spend the money for a professional editor, and too many of those who are willing to spend the money, don’t know enough about finding and evaluating an editor, and so are dissatisfied with multiple aspects of the author-editor relationship and help fuel the do-it-yourself school.

In light of these tougher times, the professional editor has to look at what investments he or she can make that will ultimately generate profitability, even if fees are lowered or remain stagnant. As I have mentioned in past articles, a major contributor to profitability is the purchase and use of software like EditTools, Editor’s Toolkit Plus, and PerfectIt. (For general overviews of these programs and their respective roles in the editing process, see The 3 Stages of Copyediting: I — The Processing Stage, The 3 Stages of Copyediting: II — The Copyediting Stage, and The 3 Stages of Copyediting: III — The Proofing Stage. In The Professional Editor: Working Effectively Online II — The Macros, I discussed macros more specifically.) Yet in recent months, I have received inquiries from fellow editors asking about increasing productivity using macros in a more detailed manner. So, perhaps the time is ripe to address some of the EditTools macros in detail.

When I edit, always in the forefront of my thinking is this question: What can I do to further automate and streamline the editing process? What I want to do is spend less time addressing routine editing issues and more time addressing those issues that require the exercise of editorial judgement and discretion. I want to undertake the routine endeavors as efficiently and profitably as I can; I do not, however, want to sacrifice editorial quality for editorial speed. (Because I often work on a per-page basis, speed is a key factor in determining profitability. However, even when working on an hourly basis, speed is important; because few clients have unlimited budgets for editing, it is important to maintain a steady rate of pages per hour.)

The editing process is additionally hampered by the growth of the style guides. With each new edition, the manuals get larger, not more compact, and there are numerous additional variations that have to be learned and considered. (How helpful and/or useful these guides are is a discussion for a later day.) I have discovered that no matter how well I have mastered a particular style guide, the inhouse editor knows the one rule that has slipped by me and wants to question why I am not following it, no matter how arcane, nonsensical, or irrelevant the rule is.

It is because of the increasing difficulty in adhering to all the rules of a particular style guide — especially when the style guide is supplemented with a lengthy house style manual that has hundreds of exceptions to the style guide’s rules, as well as hundreds of errata released by the style guide publisher, which are not readily accessible — that I increasingly rely on macros to apply preferred choices.

A key to using macros, however, is that they are used with tracking on, but only when appropriate (an example of inappropriate is changing a page range such as 767-69 to 767-769 in a reference cite or changing two spaces to one space between words; an example of appropriate is changing 130 cc to 130 mL or changing which to that). Tracking acts as a signal to me that I have made a change and lets me rethink and undo a change. Consequently, most macros in EditTools, by default, work with tracking on.

(One caution when using tracking and macros: Some macros do not work correctly when tracking is on. That is because the “deleted” or original is not really deleted as far as the computer is concerned in many page views. Basic Find & Replace works well with tracking on, but the more sophisticated the Find & Replace algorithm and the more that a macro is asked to do, the less well tracking works. Consequently, I make it a habit, particularly when using wildcard find and replace macros, to run the macros with tracking off.)

I know that I am focusing on increasing an editor’s profitability, but many of the macros in EditTools are usable by authors who are reviewing their manuscript before sending it to a professional editor for editing. What helps make a good editing job also can help make a good writing job! The two processes, although different, are not so distinct that they diverge like a fork in the road. Being sure that “Gwun” is always “Gwun” and not sometimes “Gwin” is important to both the author and the editor.

Unfortunately, both authors and editors tend to think in a singular way; that is, if they are uncomfortable writing and creating macros, they simply forget about them. Authors and editors seek their comfort zone when it comes to production methods because they do not see the production methods as enhancing their ultimate output. This is wrong thinking.

Let’s assume that an author has decided to name a character Gwynthum. The way I work is to enter the name Gwynthum in my Never Spell Word macro’s database for this book (along with other entries such as [perhaps] changing towards to toward, foreword to forward, fourth to forth, other character names, place names, and the like) and I then run the macro before I begin editing. An author would make these entries before doing the first review of the manuscript. Running the macro before I begin alerts me to some problems and fixes others.

Every time the macro comes across Gwynthum in the manuscript, it highlights it in green. Should I then, as I am editing, come across Gwythum or Gwynthim or some other variation, it would stand out because it is not highlighted in green. Similarly, the macro would change every instance of fourth to forth, but do so with tracking on and by highlighting the change with a different highlight color. This would bring the change to my attention and let me undo the change if appropriate.

(In the case of homonyms like fourth and forth, foreword and forward, and their and there, I make use of EditTools’ Homonym macro and database and do not include the words in the Never Spell Word macro. Rather than changing fourth to forth, the macro highlights the word in red, which tells me that I need to check that the word is correct in context. The homonym macro is a separate macro and has its own database, one that you create. So if you know that you have problems with where and were but not with their and there, you can put the former in your database and omit the latter.)

As noted earlier, the same tools that benefit editors can benefit authors who are preparing their manuscripts for submission to an editor, or even thinking about self-editing their manuscript. Thinking a little outside one’s comfort zone and making the best use of editing and writing tools can improve a manuscript tremendously, and for authors, can help reduce the cost of professional editing.

In later articles in this series, I will go into detail about how to use some of the macros that make up the EditTools collection. However, it must be remembered that macros are mechanical, unthinking tools. No editor or writer should think of macros as a substitute for using independent judgement; rather, macros should be looked on as being an aid to creating a more perfect manuscript.

Richard Adin, An American Editor



  1. Macros are huge timesavers and very worthwhile as an editor’s or author’s “backup brain.” Thanks for the reminder on how and why to use them!


    Comment by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter — September 19, 2012 @ 11:39 am | Reply

  2. You got me all excited about EditTools — but it’s Windows only! Can you recommend a Mac OS equivalent?


    Comment by Corinne Colbert — September 19, 2012 @ 3:27 pm | Reply

    • I’m sorry. There is no Mac OS equivalent. If you run a program like Parallels and Word for Windows on the Mac, you should be able to use EditTools.


      Comment by americaneditor — September 19, 2012 @ 3:39 pm | Reply

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