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, 2012

Worth Noting: PerfectIt Version 2 Released

In prior posts, I have discussed and extolled the virtues of PerfectIt during the final editing stage (see, e.g., The 3 Stages of Copyediting: III — The Proofing Stage). Now version 2 of PerfectIt has been released.

The major enhancements found in PerfectIt 2 include the following:

  • Quickly scan through errors with a new slider
  • Return to past issues with the new Back button
  • Clearer view of the working document with PerfectIt running to one side
  • Compatibility with 64-bit versions of MS Office
  • Quickly assess a document with consistency reports
  • List revisions with reports on changes made
  • Limit checking to sections of your document
  • Significantly faster document checking

The following video demonstrates some of the enhancements found in PerfectIt 2:

PerfectIt 2: What’s New

PerfectIt 2 is available as an upgrade for current owners of PerfectIt. For more information, please visit Intelligent Editing at

August 5, 2010

The 3 Stages of Copyediting: III — The Proofing Stage

In part I of this series (The 3 Stages of Copyediting: I — The Processing Stage), the focus was on getting the manuscript ready for editing by taking care of the mechanical things — the clean up — of author-provided files using macros created by The Editorium and wordsnSync. Part II (The 3 Stages of Copyediting: II — The Copyediting Stage) focused on EditTools, a group of macros designed to make editing faster, more accurate, and more consistent.

Now that the manuscript has been prepped and copyedited, it is time to take one last look through the manuscript to catch some things that may have been missed and to do a final cleanup. This is the proofing stage — the third stage of copyediting — and the stage where PerfectIt is so valuable.

Stage III: The Proofing Stage

No matter how good an editor is, the editor will have missed something; the more complex the manuscript, the more somethings that are likely to have gotten by the editor’s eagle eye. For example, 18 times in the manuscript the editor hyphenated time-consuming, but twice did not. Are the 2 exceptions correct or just missed hyphens? That is the question — among many questions — PerfectIt asks.

PerfectIt analyzes your document in detail, looking for certain types of “common” errors. For example, if the rule is that numbers 10 and below are to be spelled out, it will flag instances of the number 10 in digit form and ask you whether it should be corrected. And what about capitalization of heads? Was it correct to use sentence style in this head when all other heads use title case style?

PerfectIt comes with 27 built-in tests, that is, things to look for. The tests include

  • hyphenation and dashes, including phrases with hyphens and dashes, singles words split by hyphens or dashes, and compound words
  • spelling consistency, including spelling variations, numerical characters, common typographical errors, and contractions
  • abbreviations, including abbreviations in 2 forms, defined two ways, used before being defined, defined the same way more than once, abbreviations without definitions, and abbreviations not used
  • capitalization, including capitalization in phrases and heads
  • list punctuation and capitalization
  • tables, boxes, and figures, including capitalization, punctuation, consistency, and order
  • comments and highlighting left in the text
  • final cleanup tasks, such as removing for double spaces and creating a table of acronyms

PerfectIt also lets the editor create his or her own custom word lists, which are the tests to be run and the parameters for the tests. For example, rather than being presented with having to choose each time whether self esteem or self-esteem is preferred, the editor can create a custom word list that tells PerfectIt to (a) never find self-esteem, (b) always prefer self-esteem and so find instances of self esteem, or (c) always prefer self esteem and so find instances of self-esteem. This customization also works with spelling (i.e., not just phrases and hyphenation) so if the editor prefers distension over distention, the editor can make distension the always preferred spelling and instances of distention only will be found.

If the editor chose self-esteem as the preferred form, when PerfectIt finds self esteem it tells the editor how many locations this form appears in and provides an opportunity to go to those locations if needed. If the editor is certain that it needs to be corrected, clicking the Fix or Fix All buttons makes the corrections (with tracking on). No need to manually fix each instance.

PerfectIt’s display is divided into several informational panels. At the top it tells you what test is being run and what percentage of the proofing process has been completed. Immediately below the test name, PerfectIt describes the error it has found and how many. For example, if the test is “Abbreviations in two forms,” the error description may say “Error description (1 of 3),” indicating that 3 errors have been found and this is the first one.

This panel is followed by the “Choose preferred abbreviation” panel. If the error is that sometimes the abbreviation is USA and sometimes it is U.S.A., this panel will tell you, for example, “USA (found 5 times)” and “U.S.A. (found 2 times).” You click on your preference and then look below this panel to the final panel which shows the locations of the nonpreferred form. You can then fix them one at a time or all at once — or you can decide that these are not errors based on the context and thus not change one or more of the “errors.” The editor always has the option of leaving something as it is. PerfectIt is mechanically finding these errors so that the editor can apply his or her editorial judgement.

PerfectIt is a perfect way to do a final check of an edited manuscript. It can save an editor from embarrassment and can reduce the number of errors that clients find. Although not a panacea for all errors and missed items, PerfectIt does focus on the more commonly missed items.

Editors who do not already use PerfectIt in the proofing stage should consider trying it. I can tell you that when I found PerfectIt, I downloaded the trial version, and within 5 minutes of running it on a chapter I bought it. I immediately saw its value, and have been recommending it since.

The combination of  Editorium programs, EditTools, and PerfectIt is a combination that will enhance every editor’s accuracy and efficiency. Improving efficiency is a sure way to improve any editor’s bottom line; improving accuracy is a sure way to improve editor and client relations because better editing results in lower client costs.

(Disclosure: I have no financial connection to or other interest in either Intelligent Editing or The Editorium. I have purchased their macros and use them in my own editing business. I am the creator of EditTools and an owner of wordsnSync Ltd.)

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