An American Editor

November 7, 2012

The Business of Editing: Wildcard Macros and Money

I thought the mention of money might catch your interest :). But macros, especially wildcard macros, and money do go hand in hand. Consider the following two scenarios I recently experienced in the references of a project (same project, different chapters).

In the first scenario, there were, over two chapters, nearly 500 references that the authors had formatted like this:

Agarwal, S., Loh, Y. H., Mcloughlin, E. M., Huang, J., Park, I. H., Miller, J. D., Huo, H., Okuka, M., Dos Reis, R. M., Loewer, S., Ng, H. H., Keefe, D. L., Goldman, F. D., Klingelhutz, A. J., Liu, L. & Daley, G. Q. (2011) Telomere elongation in induced pluripotent stem cells from dyskeratosis congenita patients. Nature, 464, 292-6.

In the second scenario, the references were formatted like this:

Adhami F, G Liao, YM Morozov, et al: “Cerebral ischemia-hypoxia induces intravascular coagulation and autophagy.” Am J Pathol 2006;  169(2): 566-583.

What they need to look like is this:

Airley R, Loncaster J, Davidson S, et al. Glucose transporter glut-1 expression correlates with tumor hypoxia and predicts metastasis-free survival in advanced carcinoma of the cervix. Clin Cancer Res 2001;7(4):928-934.

The money question is how to I get the references from where they are to where they need to be quickly and efficiently so that I make money and not lose money? The answer lies in wildcard macros.

For most editors this is a daunting task that needs to be tackled manually. In the first scenario, the editor will manually remove each extraneous period, manually move the year to precede the volume number, and manually correct the punctuation problems in the citation. In other words, most editors will spend a good two or three minutes — if not longer — correcting each reference entry. I, on the other hand, spent less than 30 minutes cleaning up these references and verifying the journal names.

It is not that I am a brilliant macro writer — I am not. A skilled macro writer is someone like Jack Lyon, the creator of the Editorium macros that so many of us use. Instead, what I am is a smart user of the tools that will help me accomplish what needs to be done. In this case, I am a smart user of EditTools’ Wildcard Find & Replace (WFR) macro tool.

WFR has been designed to make creating and using wildcard macros easy. You do not need to know how to write the macros, the tool will do it for you; instead, you need to know how to tackle a problem, how to break it down into its component parts.

The first step is to find a pattern. Remember that macros are dumb and work on patterns. I began by analyzing the patterns in the author names: Agarwal, S., Loh, Y. H., Mcloughlin, E. M. I realized that, for example, each of the first names was represented by an initial followed by a period and a space except that the final initial was followed by both a period and a comma (e.g., Y. H.,). Thus each group was separated by a period-comma combination. I also noticed that some authors had a single initial and some had two initials (and I recalled from other reference lists that some authors had three initials).

Beginning with the single initial name, I used WFR to create the first macro. WFR lets me select from menus what I want (e.g., the Character menu gives me several options, including Exact Characters, Exclude Characters, lower case, UPPER CASE, Mixed Case) and based on my selection, WFR creates the entry for me (e.g., choosing UPPER CASE in the first field inserts an unlimited [A-Z]@ into the field, which WFR turns into ([A-Z]@), the correct form for a wildcard). I do not need to know how to write the entry, I need only give the correct instruction. Thus, the first thing I wanted the macro to find was the surname, which is mixed case. So from the menu of options, I chose Mixed Case and unlimited (unlimited because some surnames are short and others are long and I need to cover all of them) and WFR created ([A-Za-z]@) for me.

I continued to make my selections by filling in the fields in the WFR form so that in the end the fields were filled in for me like this (the @ indicates any number of the find criterion; the {1,1} indicates a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 1 of the find criterion; and in #3 and #7, preceding the { is a space):

Field #    Find                Replace
1              [A-Za-z]@       \1
2              ,                         \3
3               {1,1}                 \4
4             [A-Z]{1,1}          \6
5             .                           \7
6             ,
7               {1,1}

The Replace fields are where I tell the macro what to replace the find with. Again, this can be achieved by making selections from a menu. The \4, for example, indicates that what I want is found in field #4. So the Replace information tells the macro that I want the found criteria replaced with Surname (#1), a space (#3), the initial (#4), a comma (#6), and a space (#7). WFR creates a wildcard find string that looks like this:

([A-Za-z]@)(,)( {1,1})([A-Z]{1,1})(.)(,)( {1,1})

and a replace string that looks like this:

\1\3\4\6\7

and when the macro is run, every author name that looks like

Agarwal, S.,

becomes

Agarwal S,

Clearly, this one macro is not enough to clean up all the variations. In fact, for the first scenario it took 11 macros just for the name cleanup. But this is another feature of WFR. After I create a macro, I can save it, with a lengthy description, in a file with similar macros so I can use the macro again without having to create it again. But to have to run 11 macros individually is time-consuming, so WFR will let me create a script that will run all 11 macros in whatever order I want them to run.

A script is easy to create — you just double-click on the macros you want to add to a script and then save them. The script can be added to or subtracted from at any time.

Ultimately, I created another set of four macros to deal with the author names in the second scenario. All of these macros — those for scenario 1 and those for scenario 2 — can be modified to deal with different patterns as the need arises. I will not have to keep reinventing the macros.

Another feature of WFR is that the macros are editable. If you discover that you should have included or omitted something, you do not need to recreate the entire macro; just choose to edit it.

And WFR lets you test the macro to make sure it works as you expect. (One note of caution when working with wildcard macros: It is best to turn tracking off. With tracking on, wildcard macros often produce bizarre results. Run the same macro with tracking off and everything works fine.)

It took me about 30 minutes to write all of the macros for both scenarios. Once I wrote them, however, when I came to the next chapter that needed the cleanup, the cleanup was done in less than a minute. Compare a less-than-a-minute cleanup time to the time it would take to do the cleanup manually. The wildcard macros make me money by making my work easy, quick, and efficient.

The beauty of EditTools’ Wildcard Find & Replace macro is that you do not need to be a macro guru to create these macros. You simply need to break the tasks down into steps and use WFR to create the macros for you. One important point that is worth repeating: Macros are dumb. They will do what you tell them to do even if they shouldn’t. It is still your responsibility as an editor to check the items. Macros do make mistakes.

If you haven’t tried WFR, you should. It is an easy way to delve into the world of wildcard macros. And unlike using the wildcard feature of Word’s Find & Replace, WFR lets you save the macros for future use and gives you a way to run several wildcard macros sequentially without having to create them.

September 19, 2012

The Business of Editing: Macros for Editors and Authors

Times are getting tougher for the editing community. As has been discussed in earlier articles, pressure is being exerted by the publishing community to lower fees and what should be a natural market for editors — the indie author market in this age of ebooks — has not really developed as expected. Too many indie authors are unable or unwilling to spend the money for a professional editor, and too many of those who are willing to spend the money, don’t know enough about finding and evaluating an editor, and so are dissatisfied with multiple aspects of the author-editor relationship and help fuel the do-it-yourself school.

In light of these tougher times, the professional editor has to look at what investments he or she can make that will ultimately generate profitability, even if fees are lowered or remain stagnant. As I have mentioned in past articles, a major contributor to profitability is the purchase and use of software like EditTools, Editor’s Toolkit Plus, and PerfectIt. (For general overviews of these programs and their respective roles in the editing process, see 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. In The Professional Editor: Working Effectively Online II — The Macros, I discussed macros more specifically.) Yet in recent months, I have received inquiries from fellow editors asking about increasing productivity using macros in a more detailed manner. So, perhaps the time is ripe to address some of the EditTools macros in detail.

When I edit, always in the forefront of my thinking is this question: What can I do to further automate and streamline the editing process? What I want to do is spend less time addressing routine editing issues and more time addressing those issues that require the exercise of editorial judgement and discretion. I want to undertake the routine endeavors as efficiently and profitably as I can; I do not, however, want to sacrifice editorial quality for editorial speed. (Because I often work on a per-page basis, speed is a key factor in determining profitability. However, even when working on an hourly basis, speed is important; because few clients have unlimited budgets for editing, it is important to maintain a steady rate of pages per hour.)

The editing process is additionally hampered by the growth of the style guides. With each new edition, the manuals get larger, not more compact, and there are numerous additional variations that have to be learned and considered. (How helpful and/or useful these guides are is a discussion for a later day.) I have discovered that no matter how well I have mastered a particular style guide, the inhouse editor knows the one rule that has slipped by me and wants to question why I am not following it, no matter how arcane, nonsensical, or irrelevant the rule is.

It is because of the increasing difficulty in adhering to all the rules of a particular style guide — especially when the style guide is supplemented with a lengthy house style manual that has hundreds of exceptions to the style guide’s rules, as well as hundreds of errata released by the style guide publisher, which are not readily accessible — that I increasingly rely on macros to apply preferred choices.

A key to using macros, however, is that they are used with tracking on, but only when appropriate (an example of inappropriate is changing a page range such as 767-69 to 767-769 in a reference cite or changing two spaces to one space between words; an example of appropriate is changing 130 cc to 130 mL or changing which to that). Tracking acts as a signal to me that I have made a change and lets me rethink and undo a change. Consequently, most macros in EditTools, by default, work with tracking on.

(One caution when using tracking and macros: Some macros do not work correctly when tracking is on. That is because the “deleted” or original is not really deleted as far as the computer is concerned in many page views. Basic Find & Replace works well with tracking on, but the more sophisticated the Find & Replace algorithm and the more that a macro is asked to do, the less well tracking works. Consequently, I make it a habit, particularly when using wildcard find and replace macros, to run the macros with tracking off.)

I know that I am focusing on increasing an editor’s profitability, but many of the macros in EditTools are usable by authors who are reviewing their manuscript before sending it to a professional editor for editing. What helps make a good editing job also can help make a good writing job! The two processes, although different, are not so distinct that they diverge like a fork in the road. Being sure that “Gwun” is always “Gwun” and not sometimes “Gwin” is important to both the author and the editor.

Unfortunately, both authors and editors tend to think in a singular way; that is, if they are uncomfortable writing and creating macros, they simply forget about them. Authors and editors seek their comfort zone when it comes to production methods because they do not see the production methods as enhancing their ultimate output. This is wrong thinking.

Let’s assume that an author has decided to name a character Gwynthum. The way I work is to enter the name Gwynthum in my Never Spell Word macro’s database for this book (along with other entries such as [perhaps] changing towards to toward, foreword to forward, fourth to forth, other character names, place names, and the like) and I then run the macro before I begin editing. An author would make these entries before doing the first review of the manuscript. Running the macro before I begin alerts me to some problems and fixes others.

Every time the macro comes across Gwynthum in the manuscript, it highlights it in green. Should I then, as I am editing, come across Gwythum or Gwynthim or some other variation, it would stand out because it is not highlighted in green. Similarly, the macro would change every instance of fourth to forth, but do so with tracking on and by highlighting the change with a different highlight color. This would bring the change to my attention and let me undo the change if appropriate.

(In the case of homonyms like fourth and forth, foreword and forward, and their and there, I make use of EditTools’ Homonym macro and database and do not include the words in the Never Spell Word macro. Rather than changing fourth to forth, the macro highlights the word in red, which tells me that I need to check that the word is correct in context. The homonym macro is a separate macro and has its own database, one that you create. So if you know that you have problems with where and were but not with their and there, you can put the former in your database and omit the latter.)

As noted earlier, the same tools that benefit editors can benefit authors who are preparing their manuscripts for submission to an editor, or even thinking about self-editing their manuscript. Thinking a little outside one’s comfort zone and making the best use of editing and writing tools can improve a manuscript tremendously, and for authors, can help reduce the cost of professional editing.

In later articles in this series, I will go into detail about how to use some of the macros that make up the EditTools collection. However, it must be remembered that macros are mechanical, unthinking tools. No editor or writer should think of macros as a substitute for using independent judgement; rather, macros should be looked on as being an aid to creating a more perfect manuscript.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

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