An American Editor

July 5, 2019

Why Do You Edit?

By Daniel Heuman

When I present at editing conferences, I’ve started asking the audience one question: Why do you edit?

The answers I get back are amazing and diverse; for example:

  • I like helping people tell their stories.
  • I contribute to medical research and change lives.
  • It gives me a good work-life balance.
  • I make science happen.
  • I help people communicate.
  • I get paid to read books!

The one answer that I’ve never heard is “I like checking consistency of hyphenation.” Nobody has ever told me that their driving force, the reason that gets them out of bed in the morning, is “making sure abbreviations are defined when they are first used.” That’s why editors love PerfectIt. It makes the mechanical elements of editing faster and easier, so you can focus on what matters. And that’s why I’m excited to announce the details of PerfectIt 4, our first new edition for Windows users since 2015.

The Basics of PerfectIt

If you haven’t used PerfectIt, its core philosophy is that humans make the best editing decisions, and they always will. The role of software is to help people make those decisions faster. PerfectIt doesn’t know what’s right. Instead, it alerts you to points in the document that could be errors. It leaves every decision up to you.

Here are some of the errors that PerfectIt helps you find:

  • Inconsistent hyphenation (e.g., “email” in one place, but “e-mail” in another).
  • Abbreviations that haven’t been defined or have been used before they’re defined.
  • Capitalization inconsistency (e.g., “Government” or “government”).
  • Brackets and quotes left open.
  • Numbers in the middle of sentences (spelled out or in numerals).
  • Inconsistencies in list punctuation and capitalization.
  • Use of sentence case or title case in headings.
  • Different spellings of the same word (e.g., “adviser” or “advisor”).
  • Common typos that spellcheck won’t find (no more “line mangers” or “pubic consultations”).

You can also use PerfectIt to enforce house style rules. The program is customizable so you can build in your own preferences. That’s useful for both freelance and in-house editors. If you’re a freelancer, PerfectIt lets you build in a style sheet for each client so it’s easy to keep track of different preferences. For an in-house editor, PerfectIt helps you enforce your style manual. You can set up your team with PerfectIt and make sure everyone at your organization follows the style manual (at long last).

PerfectIt doesn’t do anything that you can’t do. You can find and correct every error described above manually. However, these errors are time-consuming to find and easy to miss — and checking them is not why you edit! Checking mechanical errors is necessary work, but every minute you can save on the mechanics is more time for substantive editing.

What’s New in PerfectIt 4

In PerfectIt 4, we concentrated on one thing: increasing that time saving. We did that in two ways: improving PerfectIt’s initial scan and changing the interface. You can see it here.

In the past, PerfectIt’s initial scan was when you could step away from the computer and treat yourself to a cup of coffee or check your social media. With PerfectIt 4, a scan that could take as long as 5 or 10 minutes is now over in seconds. Coffee and social media will have to wait!

The biggest change in the interface is that every location now has a separate fix button. That makes it easier to use the preview text to see context and make changes. The time saving is just a second or two for each fix. However, the effect is cumulative. If you save a second or two on each fix, that can be a minute or two on each document. When you add that up over the course of a year, it’s significant.

Time savings aren’t the only improvement. We’ve also made changes to PerfectIt’s styles. We’ve added support for GPO Style, and we’ve updated WHO Style, UN Style, EU Style and American Legal Style. In addition, you can now base a style on an existing style. So if you do legal editing, you can start with PerfectIt’s built-in American Legal Style and build your own preferences on top of that.

Do More of What You Love

We made saving time the focus of PerfectIt 4 because that’s what every professional needs. Time saved on mechanics is more time for substantive editing (or more time for family, hobbies, and things that have nothing to do with editing). Do something you love. Checking for consistency mistakes is an important part of the job, but it isn’t why you edit.

Daniel Heuman is the CEO and founder of Intelligent Editing. PerfectIt is available for a 14-day free trial or a $70 per year purchase at intelligentediting.com. You can purchase it for just $49 per year (30% discount) if you’re a member of one of these professional editing associations.

April 27, 2018

Lyonizing Word: Some Favorite Features from Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2018

Jack Lyon

Making new macros with powerful features!

Bright-colored icons for all happy creatures!

Searching for typos with fresh wildcard strings!

These are a few of my favorite things.

                      (Apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein.)

The new Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2018 has a wealth of new features, but I’d like to alert you to a few of my favorites, some of which are not immediately obvious but can be enormously useful.

Title-case all headings

If I had to pick a favorite out of all the new features, it would be this one. The previous version of Editor’s ToolKit Plus made it possible to select a heading, press a key (or click the mouse), and properly title-case the selected text. For example, a heading like this one—

THE GHOST IN THE MACHINE

or this one (Word’s default)—

The Ghost In The Machine

instantly became capitalized like this—

The Ghost in the Machine

with commonly used articles, prepositions, and conjunctions lowercased. That was great as far as it went, but why not make it possible to properly title-case all of a document’s headings without having to select them? That’s what this new feature does, for any text formatted with a heading style (Heading 1, Heading 2, and so on—or your own custom heading styles).

But this feature takes things even a step further, allowing you to automatically title-case headings in the active document, all open documents, or all documents in a folder — your choice. Now, rather than painstakingly capping and lowercasing by hand, you can have this feature do it for you, in seconds rather than hours.

But wait — there’s more, as they say on TV. This feature references a list of words so it knows what to lowercase, and you can edit that list to fit your needs. Obviously you’re going to want such words as and, the, of, and an, but what about beyond? How about through? Add or remove words to meet your own editorial style.

In addition, you can add text that you want to remain in all caps: USA, NASA, AARP, and so on.

Finally, you can even specify mixed case, with words like QuarkXPress and InDesign.

In my opinion, this feature alone is worth the price of admission. It will save you many an hour of editorial drudgery.

AutoMaggie

As you almost certainly know from hard experience, sometimes Microsoft Word documents become corrupted. (The technical term for this is wonky.) The standard fix, known as a “Maggie” (for tech writer/editor Maggie Secara, who has made it widely known to colleagues, although she did not invent the technique), is to select all of a document’s text except for the final paragraph mark (which holds the corruption), copy the text, and paste the text into a new document, which should then be free of wonkiness.

That’s simple enough, but section breaks can also hold corruption, so if your document has several of those, you have to maggie each section separately. Paragraph breaks also can become corrupt, in which case they need to be replaced with shiny new ones. The AutoMaggie feature in Editor’s ToolKit Plus takes care of all this automatically.

MacroVault batch processing

If you’re fond of using macros that you’ve recorded yourself or captured online, you’ll find MacroVault a truly revolutionary feature of the new Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2018. It was included with the previous version of the program as a way to easily access the macros you use the most, including automatically set keyboard shortcuts to run those macros. Now it takes your macro use to the next level, allowing you to run any of your macros on the active document, all open documents, or all documents in a folder.

Not only that, but you can specify which parts of a document you want to use — the main text, text boxes, footnotes, endnotes, headers, footers, and comments. This brings enormous power and flexibility to your macro collection.

FileCleaner saved settings

FileCleaner has lots of new (and useful!) cleanup options — so many, in fact, that I’ve had to put each kind of option on its own tab, one for each of the following:

  • Breaks, Returns, Spaces, Tabs
  • Dashes
  • Hyphenation
  • Formatting
  • Text
  • Punctuation
  • Miscellaneous

But I think the slickest new feature in FileCleaner is the ability to save entire sets of options for future use.

Just enter a name for a set of options (for a certain client, a certain kind of manuscript, or whatever). Then click OK to clean up those options. The next time you use FileCleaner, you can activate that set of options again by clicking the drop-down arrow on the right. When you do, all of the options for that saved setting will become selected. You can save up to 20 different sets of options.

Speed!

My final favorite thing isn’t actually a feature. Instead, it’s the speed of nearly all the features in Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2018.

I originally wrote many of my programs back in the 1990s, using the clunky, old-fashioned WordBasic language. When Microsoft Word 97 was released, it featured a new language — VBA (Visual Basic for Applications), but it would also convert WordBasic macros into pseudo-VBA so the macros would continue to work in the new software. That pseudo-VBA has been the basis for my original programs ever since.

Now, in Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2018, I’ve rewritten most of the code from the ground up in native VBA. It took a long time to do that (nearly 28,000 lines of code!), but the resulting software is fast. NoteStripper, for example, used to strip notes to text by selecting, copying, and pasting each note. It worked, but if a document had lots of notes, it took a long time. Now, NoteStripper strips notes to text without selecting, copying, or pasting anything. Everything is done using the built-in text ranges of the notes and the document itself, and wow, what a difference!

For purposes of comparison, I just used NoteStripper on a document with 100 notes. The old version took 25 seconds — not bad. The new version took 2 seconds — making it more than 10 times faster than the old one. If you’re working on a big book with a short deadline, that kind of speed can make a real difference in your ability to get the job done.

In conclusion

I hope you’ll try the new Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2018 (which runs in Word 2016 on Macintosh, and in Word 2010, 2013, and 2016 on PCs), and that it will become one of your favorite things! If there are any features you particularly like, I’d love to hear what they are. If there are any features you would like to work differently, I’d love to hear about that as well.

Finally, if there are any features you think needed to be added, please let me know. I’d like to make Editor’s ToolKit Plus as useful as possible.

By the way, I continue to make improvements to the program almost daily. For that reason, if you’ve already installed Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2018, I strongly recommend that you download and install the most-recent version. You can download it here.

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