by Jack Lyon
Dan A. Wilson, of The Editor’s Desktop, once advised editors that a computer is “far and away your most valuable tool, your ultimate enabler, your brain’s second-in-command. A brain with a pencil in its hand cannot compete — indeed, cannot even credibly challenge — a brain with a computer and computer-sophistication at its disposal.”
Why would that be so? After all, even under the guidance of the most brilliant programmer, a computer can’t ensure that a manuscript has accuracy, clarity, or elegance of expression. But a computer can fix hundreds of mechanical problems that editors shouldn’t have to worry about, and it can do it quickly and consistently.
If something can be automated, then automate it! Let the computer do the heavy lifting. Why is that important? Because it enables you to do more work in less time, and it frees your mind to concentrate on the things that a computer can’t handle (like accuracy, clarity, and elegance of expression). If you’re working for a corporation, that makes you more valuable as an employee (making raises more likely and layoffs less likely). If you’re working for yourself, it enables you to earn more money for the time you put in (as long as you’re charging by the job, the word, or the page, which you should be [see, e.g., On the Basics: Dealing with the Perennial Question of Setting Rates for Our Work]).
Editors working on a computer almost always use Microsoft Word. Love it or hate it (I do both), it is unquestionably the de facto word processor in the publishing world. So how can you use Word to automate whatever can be automated? Here are some suggestions:
- Learn to use the full power of Word’s find and replace feature, including wildcards. My Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word will teach you everything you need to know. (No brag, just fact, as we used to say in grade school.)
- Learn to record and run macros to automate repetitive editing tasks. My Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word is a good starting place.
- Use Microsoft Word add-ins (like the ones I create at The Editorium) that expand Word’s features to automate various editorial tasks. Let’s look at what some of those add-ins can do to ease your workload.
We’ll start with one of my most popular add-ins, FileCleaner, which cleans up some of the most common problems in electronic manuscripts, including:
- Multiple spaces in a row
- Multiple returns in a row
- Spaces around returns
- Double hyphens that should be em dashes
- Hyphens between numbers that should be en dashes
And much, much more. Here’s a screen shot of the options available:
Want to try it? All of those options are included as part of my Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2014 add-in, which I highly recommend that you download and try. The program offers a 45-day trial period so you can make sure it does what you need before deciding to buy. And if you need help using it, I’m always available by email.
I’d like to point out one special feature of FileCleaner that is frequently overlooked. See that option (under “Formatting”) to “standardize font formats (remove overrides)”? It removes all those odd, inconsistent uses of different fonts that authors like to use, but at the same time it leaves italic, bold, superscript, and styles intact. You won’t believe what a difference this can make in cleaning up a manuscript!
FileCleaner also offers to clean up the active document, all open documents, or all documents in a folder, which means you can run the program on a whole batch of files at once while you go back to reviewing manuscripts (or spending time with family and friends).
Remember all of my talk about automating what can be automated? This is what I’m talking about. Instead of manually doing dozens of find-and-replace routines on dozens of documents, let FileCleaner do the work.
FileCleaner is great for cleaning up common problems, but what if you have uncommon problems that you need to clean up? What if you need to go through three dozen documents and change millenium to millennium in all of them, along with dozens of other misspellings (manger to manager, rarify to rarefy, and on and on and on)? That’s what MegaReplacer is for. Again, it works on the active document, all open documents, or all documents in a folder. But unlike FileCleaner, it allows you to define your own find-and-replace items and then run them en masse. You start by creating a list of the items you want to find and replace, with the find item on the left and the replace item on the right, separated by a pipe symbol (|), which you’ll probably find under your backspace key. Your list will look something like this:
Save the list as a Word document, and you can use it over and over again.
So far, so good. But you’re not limited to finding and replacing individual words; you can find and replace whole phrases that you’d ordinarily have to fix manually while editing:
at this point in time|now
an historical|a historical
a large number of|many
a small number of|some
To give you even more flexibility, MegaReplacer allows you to specify Match Case, Whole Words Only, both Match Case and Whole Words Only, or Use Wildcards by appending a code to the items on your list:
“+c” for Match Case
“+w” for Find Whole Words Only
“+&” for Match Case and Find Whole Words Only
“+m” for Use Wildcards
Here’s an example of each:
p ([0-9]@.\))|p. \1+m
To get you started, MegaReplacer comes with a long list of useful corrections that you can modify to meet your needs.
The most basic functions of Editor’s ToolKit Plus reside in the section called “Editor’s ToolKit”:
In particular, they automate some of the most common editorial tasks:
Furthermore, Editor’s ToolKit assigns these tasks to the function keys on your keyboard. Need to italicize (or romanize) a word? Press F8. Want to transpose two words? Press F11. To lowercase a word, press F10.
Please note that these keyboard assignments are the default setting for Editor’s ToolKit, which Rich Adin has correctly pointed out should not be the case (and will not be the case in the next version of the program). You can easily go back to Word’s original settings, however, by clicking the Editor’s ToolKit Plus icon and then clicking “Clear Keyboard Shortcuts.”
But if you find that you like the Editor’s ToolKit keyboard assignments, you can activate them by clicking “Set Keyboard Shortcuts.” The program download includes a keyboard template that lists the default shortcuts; print it out and place it above your function keys, and you’ll have a handy guide to which key does what (remember WordPerfect 5.1?).
The keyboard shortcuts for Editor’s ToolKit are not arbitrary, by the way. I’ve tried to arrange them so that the most common editorial tasks are right at your fingertips. For example, F7 toggles italic on and off. Yes, CTRL + I does the same thing, but after you’ve used F7 a few times, CTRL + I will seem clunky and annoying. Something that small does make a difference in how easily and smoothly you’re able to work in Word (see Lyonizing Word: The Right Tool for the Job and Lyonizing Word: Assigning Macro Shortcut Keys).
Many other features are available from the keyboard, but my favorite is Cap Title Case. To use it, select the text you want to put in title case and press F9. But doesn’t Microsoft Word already have that feature? Yes, it does. But take this example:
The call of the wild
Microsoft Word will turn it into this:
The Call Of The Wild
Editor’s ToolKit will turn it into this:
The Call of the Wild
In other words, Editor’s ToolKit properly handles common articles and prepositions. (The next version of the program will allow you to specify those you want to use.)
All of these are small things, but in the pressure-cooker of day-to-day editing, small things make a big difference in the ease and even the pleasure with which these tiny tasks can be accomplished. I’ve been a working editor since 1978, so I’ve been doing such tasks a long time. I created these tools (and the many others included with Editor’s ToolKit Plus) so that my computer can handle the boring, repetitive, mechanical tasks, allowing me to do the more enjoyable and important work that a computer, no matter how sophisticated, simply cannot do. That, right there, is the reason for computers.
How do you use your computer to make your work easier and faster? I’d love to hear your ideas.
Jack Lyon (firstname.lastname@example.org) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.
Looking for a Deal?
You can buy Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2014 in a package with EditTools and PerfectIt and at a special savings of $78 off the price if bought individually. To purchase the package at the special deal price, click Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate.