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.

AutoCorrect

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.

November 7, 2011

The Professional Editor: Working Effectively Online I — The Books

I am celebrating the start of my 28th year as a professional editor. Over the course of those years, I have watched the world of editing change. Sadly, many of my colleagues have not changed with it.

In my beginning years, nearly all editing work was done on paper. I hated working on paper! I hated it because of the types of editing projects I undertake — generally the books I work on are several thousand manuscript pages and often, when published, are either a very large single volume (very-large-width spine) or are multivolume. Imagine realizing that you made a mistake in the first 500 manuscript pages and trying to find each mistake when editing on paper. Difficult at best, impossible realistically. More importantly, think of the money it cost me — after all, it was my mistake and the client shouldn’t be penalized for my mistake — and the time I spent trying to find those errors. Online editing has definitely eased that task; now correcting a mistake is significantly less expensive and less time-consuming.

Those years were also the time when computers were being introduced into the workplace for everyone, rather than for a select few. Remember XyWrite? It was the software program that many publishers adopted when it first became available. Lippincott, before it was Lippincott-Raven then Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, went so far as to create a customized version of XyWrite and would only hire editors who took, at the editor’s own expense, a day-long class in New York City on using the customized template. Alas, XyWrite was soon swept away by WordPerfect, which was ultimately swept away by Microsoft Word.

Yet in those beginning years, I saw both the future of editing and an opportunity. The future clearly was online editing and the opportunity was to be among the very few who could and would offer solely online editing of manuscripts. And that was how I promoted myself. I would send out “cost comparisons” demonstrating how much money I could save a publisher by electronically editing and coding their manuscripts instead of working on paper. And in the beginning, those savings were huge.

Today it is the rare manuscript that is edited on paper. Nearly all manuscripts are edited electronically and almost never does paper move hand to hand — the Internet has changed how professional editors work. Yet one thing hasn’t changed in all these years: there is still a sizable number of editors who have not mastered the basic tools of their profession. Their knowledge of the tools they use daily is minimal — just enough to get by. Ask them to use a feature that they have not used before and they get flustered.

Succeeding as a professional editor in the 21st century requires more than knowledge of language, spelling, and grammar — it also requires mastery of the tools we use daily. It requires learning new skills, particularly how to harness the built-in power of the software we use, and finding and using complementary software that enhances the already great power of our basic editing software. For example, it is not enough to master Microsoft Word; one needs also to be familiar with programs like MacroExpress, PerfectIt, the Editorium macros, and EditTools. (The latter three were the subject of discussion in these articles, which appeared on An American Editor more than a year ago: 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.)

Even though we need to enhance our skills with ancillary programs, we also need to enhance our skills regarding what Microsoft Word can do that makes our workflow increasingly efficient. Thus, three books that should be in every professional editor’s library, and regularly consulted, are these:

(The Macro Cookbook is not yet available for sale. I was given an advance copy by Jack Lyon because of our mutual interest in macros. Macro Cookbook will be available for sale by November 30. Jack is adding a couple of chapters to it that will make the book even more valuable. When it becomes available, I will post the information in a Worth Noting post here on An American Editor.)

Each of these books can be considered, from the editor’s perspective, a bible for working with Microsoft Word. They both educate and help to solve problems. Most importantly, if you take the time to work through the books, they will give you mastery over the one bit of software that is simultaneously an editor’s bane and savior: Microsoft Word.

Although there are many editors who resist delving deeply into the tools of our trade, and who even loathe having to rely on these tools, the reality is that working in Word is a fundamental requirement of professional editing. If one software program is used nearly universally in the publishing industry for editorial matters, that program is Word. And I do not see Word’s role changing in the near future; rather, I see that mastery of Word will become part of the testing process that publishers will use when choosing editors to hire.

More importantly for the professional editor, mastery of Microsoft Word is the avenue by which we can become more efficient and proficient. Increased efficiency and proficiency means our earning more money and making ourselves more saleable in an ever more competitive market.

One good reason to master Word is to clean up author files. One constant over the many years that I have been editing electronically is that authors continue to amaze me with how they prepare their manuscripts for editing. If it is a feature in Word, they feel obligated to use it in their manuscript, albeit usually incorrectly. It is the rare file I receive that can be cleaned and readied for editing within a few minutes. Authors are uncannily creative with how they misuse Word. These three books — Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and Effective Onscreen Editing — can help you deal with author creativity, as well as with whatever other problems we encounter just because we use Microsoft Word.

Mastering Word means less time spent on noneditorial matters. As our primary focus is (or should be) on language, grammar, and spelling, mastering Word reduces the time we need to spend on ancillary problems. These are the key three books to mastering Word for editors.

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