An American Editor

February 13, 2013

Editing Tools: MultiFile F&R and Search, Count, Replace

As regular readers of this blog know, I occasionally discuss macros that are included in the EditTools package. I created EditTools to enhance my editing skills, and to increase my productivity and efficiency, and thus increase my effective hourly rate.

In past articles, I have discussed the Author Query (The Business of Editing: Author Queries), Never Spell Word and Toggle (The Business of Editing: Consistency), and Journals (The Professional Editor: Working Effectively Online IV — Mastering Macros) macros. In this article, I tackle two more of the macros in EditTools: MultiFile Find & Replace and Enhanced Search, Count, & Replace.

MultiFile Find & Replace

On occasion, while editing a chapter, I discover that I made an error in previous chapters or that a style decision I made in earlier chapters has met its nemesis in the current chapter and needs to be changed. In the olden days, this meant that I had to reopen each chapter I had previously edited and do a find-and-replace. This was time-consuming, and because I work on a per-page basis, potentially costly. Thus was born MultiFile Find & Replace (MFR).

When I have finished editing a chapter (document), I place it in a different directory than the directory that contains chapters yet to be edited and the chapter I am currently editing. Edited chapters that I have not yet sent to the client are placed in an MFR directory; once they are sent to the client and thus no longer subject to my revision, they are moved to the Done directory.

(My directory structure for a project is as follows: The parent directory is the name of the client [e.g., XYZ Publishers] and each project from this client has its own subdirectory, which is the name of the project or its author(s). The subdirectories within the project directory are Original, CE, Figures, Count, MFR, and Done. Original contains all of the files I receive from the client for the project. This assures me that I always have access to the base files. The files in Original are then sorted, with figure files copied [not moved] to the Figures directory and the text files to be edited copied to the Count directory. I next count the manuscript pages contained in the files in the Count directory. [I often do not receive all of the files for a project at the same time, which is why there is a Count directory.] Once a file has been counted, it is moved [not copied] to the CE directory for editing. After editing, the edited file is moved to the MFR directory, where it remains until it is added to a batch of files for shipping to the client. When sent to the client, the file is moved to the Done directory.)

MFR works just like the normal find-and-replace except that it works on every file in a directory and it automatically tracks changes. The same caution that you would exercise with Word’s find-and-replace, you need to exercise with MFR. MFR opens a file, does a search, replaces where appropriate, and then saves the newly revised file.

Before I created EditTools, I used MFR in a prospective fashion. I used it to make changes to files that are waiting to be edited. However, I rarely do this anymore, preferring to make use of EditTool’s Never Spell Word macro for prospective changes.

Enhanced Search, Count, & Replace

Enhanced Search, Count, & Replace (ESCR) is a workhorse macro for me. It is one of my most often used macros; perhaps the only macro I use more frequently is the Toggle macro.

As I have said in prior blog posts, I work on a lot of professional books. The one commonality to every professional book — regardless of subject matter — is that acronyms are used extensively. Acronyms are the shorthand language to which “insiders” of a profession are generally privy. Yet not all acronyms are commonly understood even by “insiders.” I daresay that most people know what is meant by AIDS, even if they cannot give the definition of the acronym, but do not know either the meaning or definition of CREST as used in CREST syndrome (for the curious, CREST means “calcinosis cutis, Raynaud phenomenon, esophageal motility disorder, sclerodactyly, and telangiectasis”).

Consequently, my clients generally have a rule that they want applied: Every acronym — except the most commonly understood acronyms — has to be spelled out at first use in a chapter (sometimes a book); to be kept as an acronym, it must be used at least three times in the chapter (otherwise spell it out); and subsequent spell outs of the acronym need to be changed to the acronym for consistency.

In olden days, this was a problem. It was a nightmare when editing was done on paper; it downgraded to a headache (albeit a severe one) with the advent of computers and increasingly sophisticated word-processing search functions. Yet even today this is a major headache in the absence of ESCR.

ESCR is not perfect by any means, but it is a significant improvement over other methods of searching for an acronym and its spelled out version, counting the number of times each appears, and replacing the miscreant versions. With ESCR, my process is greatly simplified and the time it takes to search, count, and replace is reduced to seconds.

By the way, although I am always talking about using ESCR for acronyms, the macro is not limited to acronyms. That is just how I primarily use it. ESCR will work on any word or phrase that you can select, so if you want to know whether the author excessively uses the phrase in order to, ESCR will do the job — and it will let you change the phrase to something else.

At the first appearance of an acronym, I ascertain whether it is spelled out; for example, does it appear as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or just AIDS? If it doesn’t appear both spelled out and in acronym form, I add the spelled out version so that both appear. I then select both the spelled out phrase and the acronym, including the parens or brackets, and run ESCR. (How do I know that it hasn’t been spelled out previously? Because if it had been, it would have been highlighted, which is the signal to tell me that I already have checked this acronym and it has already been verified and spelled out.)

ESCR generates a report that tells me how many times, for example, each of AIDS, AIDs, Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome appears in the remainder of the open document. It excludes from the count the selected text; it only counts subsequent instances. I then have, for each item it reports, the option to have ESCR replace the existing text with different text or to highlight the existing text. So, if ESCR reports the following (the number following the text indicating the number of times the text appears subsequently in the document):

  1. AIDS     15
  2. AIDs     2
  3. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome      5
  4. acquired immunodeficiency syndrome     10
  5. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome     1

I can tell ESCR to highlight every instance of items 1 and 5, indicating they are OK as they are, and to change the text of items 2, 3, and 4 from what they currently are to AIDS. ESCR will then go through the document — and with track changes on — will highlight every instance of AIDS and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, but will change every instance of AIDs, Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome to AIDS. (The highlighting serves two purposes: [a] as already noted, it tells me that the acronym was spelled out earlier in the document, and [b] that the highlighted material is correct.)

What could be easier or more efficient? ESCR and MFR make my editing more productive, more efficient, and more accurate.


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