An American Editor

April 2, 2018

Romanized Arabic in English Texts — Part 6: Using AutoCorrect and FRedit for Special Characters

Ælfwine Mischler

As an editor and indexer, I often deal with texts that use diacritics to transcribe Arabic. In parts 1 through 4 of this series (Romanized Arabic in English Texts, Part 1 — Sources of Variations; Romanized Arabic in English Texts, Part 2 — Other Challenges for EditorsRomanized Arabic in English Texts, Part  3 — Spelling the Definite ArticleRomanized Arabic in English Texts, Part 4 — Omitting, Capitalizing, and Alphabetizing the Definite Article), I often mention the use of special characters, but until now I have not explained how to put them in your Word document. In Part 5, Romanizing Arabic in English Texts — Part 5: Inserting Symbols and Creating Shortcuts, I discuss how to insert symbols and create keyboard shortcuts. In this part, I discuss how to use AutoCorrect and FRedit for special characters.


Thanks to Geoff Hart and his Effective Onscreen Editing, for this method (and I highly recommend his book for all editors and writers).

  1. Go to the Insert tab and Symbol menu.

  1. Choose the font and subset.
  2. Find and select the character you need.

  1. Click on AutoCorrect in the lower left.

  1. In the Replace box, type some combination of keystrokes that will be easy to remember — usually best encased in some form of brackets — and then click on OK.

Now every time you type that combination, it will change to the special character you want. In my example, I chose [n-] to AutoCorrect to ñ (Unicode 00F1). If you don’t want the keystroke combination to change in a particular instance, just type Ctrl + Z (Undo). You can repeat this with all the special characters you need. In the screenshot, you can see some of the other AutoCorrect combinations I have created for the work I do.

It is sometimes difficult to find the characters you need in the Symbols table. If you have the Unicode values of the characters you need from your publisher or another source, you can also access AutoCorrect from the Word Options dialog box.

First, collect all the symbols you need and their Unicode values, either in another document or in your current document. I have collected all the Unicode characters that I use in one file, with their Unicode values, and the AutoCorrect coding that I use.

  1. If you are working in Word 2010 or a later version, go to the File tab > Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options. If you are working in Word 2007, use the Office button to get to Word Options.

  1. Then follow the steps above to create AutoCorrect codes for each character, using copy-paste to put the character in the With box.

Identifying a Character: More than One Way to Stick a Macron on a Letter

Another useful trick I learned from Geoff Hart’s book is how to identify a special character in a document that I am editing. Put your cursor immediately after a letter and hit Alt + X. The letter will change to its Unicode value. Hit Alt + X again and the character will appear again.

You can also use this method to insert a special character. Type the code and then Alt + X. If your special character is to come immediately after a numeral (such as if you are inserting a degree symbol), insert a space after the numeral, then delete the space after you insert the special character. Allen Wyatt gives more details on this in his Word Tips.

Being able to identify a character this way is handy if you come across an odd-looking character, or if you want to check whether your author has used the correct characters. There are various similar-looking characters to represent Arabic ayn and hamza, and I often have to check them. I can use the FRedit macro to highlight either the correct or incorrect characters as I find the need.

FRedit Macro

FRedit is a free macro available from Paul Beverley at Archive Publications. The FR is for Find-Replace. Paul has also provided videos to show you how to use this and other macros he has written.

You can use FRedit to replace your codes with special characters, similar to the way you would do it with AutoCorrect. The difference is that in using FRedit, your codes can be case-sensitive and your changes will not be made immediately as you type but later, when you run the macro. Collect all the special characters and your codes in one Word document to be used any time with FRedit.

When I have used editing software to check for inconsistencies, it did not recognize the difference between a plain letter and the same letter with a diacritic on it. I told Daniel Heuman of Intelligent Editing Ltd., creators of PerfectIt, about this, and sent him a sample file and a list of Unicode characters that I use for Arabic. He recently wrote to me to say that they had fixed the bug that caused this problem. I have tested it briefly and it is not quite right, but I will work with Daniel on this. With a combination of PerfectIt and FRedit, you should be able to catch most inconsistencies in files with special characters.

If you are editing rather than writing, you can use FRedit to automatically highlight — or, if you prefer, change to a different color — all of the special characters in a document. I find this useful because it draws my attention to the characters and makes it easier to see if a word is spelled once with a diacritic and once without, or if a different character was used.

If you are already familiar with FRedit, this image from the macro library will be understandable. This macro highlights all of these characters in yellow. I added the ones I needed to the ones provided by Paul. You could write similar macros that would highlight all of the single open quotation marks (sometimes used for ayn) in a second color and all of the apostrophes (sometimes used for hamza) in a third color — but note that it will also highlight these characters when they are used for other purposes.

Remember that I said there is more than one way to stick a macron on a letter? I was editing a document with a lot of transcribed Arabic titles at the time I was learning to use FRedit. I used the macro to highlight the Unicode special characters of my choice and was surprised that some letters that clearly had macrons were not highlighted. Using the Alt + X trick, I discovered why: A different character — a macron alone — had been used on those letters. They had to be changed to the correct Unicode character. FRedit made it easy to see which characters needed fixing because they were left unhighlighted.

You should now find it easier to use special characters in Word. In Part 5, I explained how to insert special characters by using the Insert Symbol feature and by creating keyboard shortcuts, which are suitable if you do not need a lot of different characters. In this part, I have explained two methods to use when you need a lot of different special characters. With AutoCorrect, you create codes that change to the desired special characters as you type. With FRedit, you create codes that change to the desired special characters when you run the macro (at the end or periodically as you work on a long file). You can also use a FRedit macro to highlight special characters so you can spot inconsistencies more easily in spelling and see any characters that look like the ones you want, but are in fact something else.

Ælfwine Mischler is an American copyeditor and indexer in Cairo, Egypt, who has been the head copyeditor at a large Islamic website and a senior editor for an EFL textbook publisher. She often edits and indexes books on Islamic studies, Middle East studies, and Egyptology.

August 3, 2015

Numbers in Sentences: Customizing PerfectIt to Find What You Want

by Daniel Heuman

PerfectIt’s test of numbers in sentences generates more questions from customers than any of PerfectIt’s other tests. Here are some (anonymized) questions that users have sent:

“When assessing inconsistencies in how numbers are handled, PerfectIt finds, say, 4 instances, when there are 10 it should have found.”

“My version of PerfectIt isn’t finding numbers. Is there a fix?”

“Why is PerfectIt missing the number ‘2’ in a sentence?”

What do all these queries have in common? They all assume that PerfectIt’s test of numbers in sentences should find every number in a document. But PerfectIt doesn’t work that way. To understand why, it helps to explain the philosophy behind PerfectIt.

How PerfectIt Works

PerfectIt is an add-in for MS Word. It checks documents in one of two ways:

  • It looks for inconsistencies. For example, if the number 3 appears in numerals in one sentence, but the number four is spelled out in another sentence, that’s an inconsistency.
  • It can be set to check user preferences. For example, you can set it to make sure that all numbers over 20 appear in numerals.

By default, PerfectIt checks consistency in three separate groups: 1-10, 11-20, and 21-100. PerfectIt checks for inconsistency within those groups, but not between them. So, for example, it would check if the numbers 1 through 10 appear in numerals and spelled out. It would not compare the appearance of the number 4 to the number 16 since those are in separate groups. Some style guides work 0-9, 10-19, and 20-99, so you can also set PerfectIt to look at those groups instead. In any case, PerfectIt goes through and alerts you to any inconsistencies. It shows each location and suggests one is likely to be wrong (leaving you to decide which).

If you set PerfectIt to enforce a preference, you can set the preference for each of the groups (1-10, 11-20 and 21-100). So, for example, you could set the numbers 0 to 9 to appear spelled out, then the numbers 10 to 19 and 20 to 99 could be set to numerals. PerfectIt will then go through and alert you to any instances that do not conform to that preference (and you can decide which to change). This video explains how to set those preferences.

What PerfectIt Finds

So going back to the users’ questions, the first thing to understand is that PerfectIt tests for numbers in sentences (not numbers in other parts of the document). If you want to find all numbers in a document, you can do that with Word’s wildcards (see, e.g., The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars). PerfectIt, on the other hand, specifically focuses on numbers in sentences.

So let’s say we set PerfectIt to spell out numbers less than 20. With that preference, how many numbers would you expect PerfectIt to find in this paragraph?

As described in Chapter 4, we started our work in 1996 when we were just 18 years old. Since then, a simple experiment that takes only 7 seconds has been copied by over 3 million people.

What do you think? There are four numbers under 20, so should PerfectIt find all four and suggest spelling them out? The answer is none. PerfectIt doesn’t alert you to numbers in sentences that it “thinks” are intended to be that way. So it won’t check numbers following the word “Chapter.” It won’t check numbers that indicate someone’s age. It won’t check measurements. And it won’t check numbers before the word “million” or “billion.”

Before you write us a letter of complaint (we’ve had several about this), think about the advantages of that functionality. Why should PerfectIt show every number? If that’s what you want, you can do that with Word’s wildcards (the pattern to search for is “<[0-9]{1,}>”). But showing every number would slow users down. More importantly, the more false positives that PerfectIt displays, the more likely it is that users will skip results. So focusing on locations that are most likely to be errors is how good software should work.

Fine-Tuning PerfectIt

Not everyone works the same way. So with all the queries around this test, we decided to change things in PerfectIt 3. PerfectIt 3 gives users the ability to fine-tune the test of numbers in sentences to work in exactly the way the user wants.

The figure below shows the Fine-Tuning tab of PerfectIt’s style sheet editor (double-click on image to enlarge it). It gives four new options for customizing how PerfectIt treats numbers in this test.

PerfectIt Style Sheet Editor

PerfectIt Style Sheet Editor

The four new options are:

  • Skip Numbers Followed By: This is the list of words that PerfectIt will look at after each number. If any of these words appear, then that number will be skipped by PerfectIt. Each word is separated by the “|” symbol (as seen in the image). You can add words, take individual words out or even take all the words out.
  • Skip Numbers Preceded By: This is identical to the list of words after numbers, but it’s the list that PerfectIt will check that appear before numbers.
  • Skip Numbers Joined By: Because numerals are usually used for comparisons and ranges, PerfectIt skips instances such as “between 3 and 4.” It does that based on the word in between the two numbers. You can change, add to, or remove those in-between words.
  • Skip Extra Words Found Preceding Numbers: PerfectIt looks for words like “Chapter” that often precede numbers. It also scans for other words that frequently appear before numbers and attempts to automatically figure out what those words are (even if they are not listed above). Tick this box if you want it to look for similar words; untick it if you don’t.

With these options, you can set PerfectIt to find as many (or as few) matches as you want. But remember, just because you can fine-tune PerfectIt, it doesn’t mean that you have to! These are features that we added for the small minority who want to alter these settings. For everyone else, the best approach is not to even look at these settings. It just helps to understand what PerfectIt will find (and what it won’t).

Learning More

There are lots of other tests that you can customize in PerfectIt, and our series of video tutorials covers all of them.

Daniel Heuman is the founder and CEO of Intelligent Editing, and the author of PerfectIt. If you have a PC with MS Word, you can get a 30-day free trial of PerfectIt from Intelligent Editing.


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You can buy EditTools in a package with PerfectIt and Editor’s Toolkit 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.

April 14, 2014

Getting More from PerfectIt: Style Sheets

Successful editors make use of tools that are designed to make editing faster, easier, more accurate, and more profitable. Three such tools are PerfectIt, EditTools, and Editor’s Toolkit Plus. These tools were discussed previously in the three-part series The 3 Stages of Copyediting: I — The Processing Stage,  II — The Copyediting Stage, and III — The Proofing Stage. That series was published in August 2010. Since then new versions of PerfectIt and EditTools have been released.

In this guest article, Daniel Heuman, creator of PerfectIt, explains how to create and use custom stylesheets in PerfectIt. For those of you who do not have PerfectIt, you can download a 30-day free trial so you can try PerfectIt and the stylesheet feature discussed here.


Getting More from PerfectIt: Style Sheets

by Daniel Heuman

PerfectIt saves time when you’re copyediting. It finds difficult-to-locate errors like inconsistent hyphenation and words that appear with initial capitals in one location, but in lowercase elsewhere. If you work with large documents, it’s a small investment that increases the quality of your work and gives you assurance that your documents are the best they can be. However, most PerfectIt users don’t take advantage of all of its features. This article is about how you can get more from the product without spending a penny extra.

PerfectIt is designed to be easy to use. You won’t need to read any manuals or make frantic calls to your tech support wizard wondering why it won’t install. The interface is so simple that you’ll be locating potential consistency mistakes in seconds. But because it’s easy, most users don’t realize that PerfectIt is not just a consistency checker. With a little bit of customization, PerfectIt can be used to check any organization’s house style. Even better, PerfectIt can be customized to store multiple house styles, so you can use it to check a different style sheet for each client that you work with.

The best way to start building a style sheet is to make use of one of our existing PerfectIt style sheets. These are free from our website. Available styles are US, UK, and Canadian spelling, as well as European Union, United Nations, and World Health Organization style sheets. A style sheet for Australian preferences is coming soon. The styles are available at this link at Intelligent Editing.

To start using one of the style sheets, save them to your hard disk. Then import the files into PerfectIt (click PerfectIt’s “Customize” menu, choose “Advanced” and then ”Import”). Then select the file that you just downloaded. When PerfectIt starts, you’ll see a dropdown list and you can choose the style sheet that you want from there. Now your version of PerfectIt checks those preferences as well as checking for consistency. For example, if you chose the US spelling sheet, it will automatically locate all instances of the word “colour” and suggest “color.” The US spelling sheet has more than 800 words programmed into it already (as well as all the variations of “IZE” such as “organize” instead of “organise”).

And you don’t have to stop there. Now that you’ve downloaded a style sheet, you can also customize it. For example, if you’re working for a client that prefers US spelling, but also wants the word “Secretary General” to appear in capitals, you can add that preference to the style sheet. There are two ways to do that:

  • You can wait for the inconsistency to come up as you work with PerfectIt. Then click the “Customize” menu and choose “Always prefer Secretary General”
  • You can add it to the current style manually by clicking “Customize,” then choosing “Advanced” then click the “Edit” button next to “Phrases that PerfectIt always finds” and add the item there.

It’s important to remember that a PerfectIt style sheet can’t include everything within an organization’s house style. PerfectIt is not a replacement for human editing, and a style sheet is not a replacement for reading the style guide. In fact, a PerfectIt style sheet includes just a small section of any style guide. The settings you can customize it for are:

  • Preferred spelling: for example, is the preference “adviser” or “advisor”, “aesthetic” or “esthetic”?
  • Preferred hyphenation: for example, “co-operation” or “cooperation”?
  • Phrases to consider: a test that can be adapted for any words/phrases that should not be misused, for example, “native”.
  • Abbreviations in two forms: for example, “Nasa” or “NASA”?
  • Phrases in capitals: for example, “euros” or “Euros”.
  • List capitalization (lowercase or uppercase).
  • List punctuation (full stops, semi-colons, or no punctuation).
  • Hyphenation of fractions and numbers: for example, “one-third” or “one third”.
  • Hyphenation of compass directions: for example, “north-east” or “northeast”.
  • Choice of letters or digits for numbers in sentences (split by number range).
  • Use of full stops in titles: for example, “Mr.” or “Mr”.
  • Preference between “ISE” and “IZE”, and “YSE” and “YZE” endings

There’s also an option to accompany each preference with a style note/reminder so that you won’t forget any important exceptions to the rules that you add. For example, if you add a preference for “baby boom” instead of “baby-boom”, you might add the style note, “Unless the use is adjectival.” If you’re working in editorial consultancy and want to prepare a PerfectIt style sheet for a customer, that option is especially important. PerfectIt relies on human judgment, so you should use the style note option to make sure that end-users are aware of all possible exceptions.

All of these options are built into PerfectIt and are free to use. And the learning time involved will quickly pay for itself. If you’re not the kind of person who likes to experiment with advanced settings, you can get detailed help with the entire process, and step by step instructions from our user guides. Alternatively, you can get help and advice from users sharing tips in PerfectIt’s new LinkedIn group.

Daniel Heuman is the Managing Director of Intelligent Editing and the designer of PerfectIt. PerfectIt launched in 2009 and is now used by more than a thousand professional editors around the world, including more than 250 members of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. It’s available separately or as part of the Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate.


Note: PerfectIt and EditTools are Windows-only programs. Editor’s Toolkit Plus will work on both Windows and Mac OS systems.

Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate is a package of the latest versions of PerfectIt, EditTools, and Editor’s Toolkit Plus at a significant savings.

Do you use PerfectIt and/or EditTools and/or Editor’s Toolkit Plus? If so, please share your experience and suggestions in comments to this article.

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