An American Editor

June 29, 2015

Lyonizing Word: The Easy Way, Not So Easy

by Jack Lyon

After publishing my last article, Lyonizing Word: We Can Do This the Easy Way, or . . ., Rich Adin, An American Editor, wrote:

As written, your wildcard find and replace reduces four names to three if “et al:” is the ending characteristic. How do you write it so that it can handle any number of names, say up to seven?

Good question, and a nice challenge for a wildcard search. Let’s say we have citations with strings of names like this:

Lyon J, Adin R, Carter TO, Jackson TT, Doe J, Smith K, Winger W, et al: blah blah blah

That’s seven names, but let’s see if we can make a wildcard string that will find any number of names and cut them down to three. My first impression is that this might be difficult or even impossible. But let’s try the following wildcard string:

([!^013]@, ){3}([!^013]@, ){1,}(et al:)

Here’s what that means:

Find any character except a carriage return: [!^013]
repeated any number of times: @
followed by a comma
followed by a space
and enclosed in parentheses to form a “group.”
Do that three times in a row: {3}
Find using the same group: ([!^013]@, )
if it occurs once or more (as indicated by the comma): {1,}
followed by “et al:” in parentheses to form a group.

There’s just one problem: It doesn’t work. And that’s how it often is with wildcards — sometimes you have to fiddle around to get the result you want; trial and error are key. So let’s see if we can find just three instances of text using our group:

([!^013]@, ){3}

That doesn’t work either. What in the world is going on here? Let’s try using the group three times in a row:

([!^013]@, )([!^013]@, )([!^013]@, )

That does work. So why not this?

([!^013]@, ){3}

Could it be that {3} doesn’t apply to the wildcard pattern ([!^013]@, ) itself but to the first instance of text that pattern finds? In other words, would that wildcard string  find the first three names in a citation like the following?

Lyon J, Lyon J, Lyon J, Lyon J, Lyon J, Lyon J, Lyon J, et al: blah blah blah

Sure enough, that works! So we’ve just learned something new about wildcard searches. For clarity, I’ll restate it here:

Specifying how many times to find something (using {3}, for example) doesn’t apply to the wildcard pattern it follows but to the first instance of text that pattern finds.

Unfortunately, that means we need to work out a different approach to our original problem. How about this?

([!^013]@, [!^013]@, [!^013]@, )([!^013]@, ){1,}(et al:)

Here’s what that means:

Find any character except a carriage return: [!^013]
repeated any number of times: @
followed by a comma
followed by a space
repeated three times
and enclosed in parentheses to form a “group.”
Find using the same group: ([!^013]@, )
if it occurs once or more (as indicated by the comma): {1,}
followed by “et al:” in parentheses to form a group.

But no, that doesn’t work either! Why not? Oh, yeah, because of that {1,}. As we discovered earlier:

Specifying how many times to find something (using {3}, for example) doesn’t apply to the wildcard pattern it follows but to the first instance of text that pattern finds.

Well, okay, then. We’ll stop using numbers (such as {1,}) to specify how many times a pattern should be repeated (at least for our current purposes). Let’s try this instead:

([!^013]@, [!^013]@, [!^013]@, )[!^013]@(et al:)

Here’s what that means:

Find any characters except a carriage return: [!^013]
repeated any number of times: @
followed by a comma
followed by a space
repeated three times
and enclosed in parentheses to form a “group.”
Then find any character except a carriage return: [!^013]
repeated any number of times: @
followed by “et al:” in parentheses to form a group.

Well, son of a gun; that actually works. So now we can use the following in the “Replace With” box:

\1\2

Here’s what that means:

Replace everything that was found
with the text represented by group 1: \1
followed by the text represented by group 2: \2

Group 1, you’ll remember, was this:

([!^013]@, [!^013]@, [!^013]@, )

It finds the first three names in our citations. And group 2 was this:

(et al:)

It finds the end of our citations.

And so, finally, we’ve succeeded in fulfilling Rich’s original request:

As written, your wildcard find and replace reduces four names to three if “et al:” is the ending characteristic. How do you write it so that it can handle any number of names, say up to seven?

Sometimes the easy way isn’t so easy. Nevertheless, it’s almost always worth pursuing. In Rich’s case, it reduced his editing time from hours (removing extraneous names by hand) to minutes (removing the names with a wildcard find and replace). It also gave Rich a wildcard search that he can save in his fabulous EditTools software for use with future projects. And it provided a deeper and clearer understanding of how to use wildcard searches.

After all these years of editing, wildcard searching is the tool I rely on the most. I encourage you to invest the time needed to learn to use this tool, which will repay your efforts many times over. A good place to start is my free paper “Advanced Find and Replace in Microsoft Word.”

I hope you’ll also watch for my forthcoming Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word. I’m still trying to find more real-life examples for the book, so if you have some particularly sticky problems that might be solved using a wildcard search, I hope you’ll send them my way. Maybe I can save you some work and at the same time figure out solutions that will help others in the future. Thanks for your help!

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.


 

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February 18, 2015

The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars

Freelancers often lack mastery of tools that are available to us. This is especially true of wildcarding. This lack of mastery results in our either not using the tools at all or using them to less than their full potential. These are tools that could save us time, increase accuracy, and, most importantly, make us money. Although we have discussed wildcard macros before (see, e.g., The Only Thing We Have to Fear: Wildcard Macros, The Business of Editing: Wildcard Macros and Money, and Macro Power: Wildcard Find & Replace; also see the various Lyonizing Word articles), after recent conversations with colleagues, I think it is time to revisit wildcarding.

Although wildcards can be used for many things, the best examples of their power, I think, are references. And that is what we will use here. But remember this: I am showing you one example out of a universe of examples. Just because you do not face the particular problem used here to illustrate wildcarding does not mean wildcarding is not usable by you. If you edit, you can use wildcarding.

Identifying the What Needs to Be Wildcarded

We begin by identifying what needs a wildcard solution. The image below shows the first 3 references in a received references file. This was a short references file (relatively speaking; I commonly receive references files with 500 to 1,000 references), only 104 entries, but all done in this fashion.

references as received

references as received

The problems are marked (in this essay, numbers in parens correspond to numbers in the images): (1) refers to the author names and the inclusion of punctuation; (2) shows the nonitalic journal name followed by punctuation; and (3) shows the use of and in the author names. The following image shows what my client wants the references to look like.

references after wildcarding

references after wildcarding

Compare the numbered items in the two images: (1) the excess punctuation is gone; (2) the journal title is italicized and punctuation free; and (3) the and is gone.

It is true that I could have fixed each reference manually, one-by-one, and taken a lot of time to do so. Even if I were being paid by the hour (which I’m not; I prefer per-page or project fees), would I want to make these corrections manually? I wouldn’t. Not only is it tedious, mind-numbing work, but it doesn’t meet my definition of what constitutes editing. Yes, it is part of the editing job, but I like to think that removing punctuation doesn’t reflect my skills as a wordsmith and isn’t the skill for which I was hired.

I will admit that in the past, in the normal course, if the reference list were only 20 items long, I would have done the job manually. But that was before EditTools and its Wildcard macro, which enables me to write the wildcard string once and then save it so I can reuse it without rewriting it in the future. In other words, I can invest time and effort now and get a reoccurring return on that investment for years to come. A no-brainer investment in the business world.

The Wildcard Find

CAUTION: Wildcard macros are very powerful. Consequently, it is recommended that you have a backup copy of your document that reflects the state of the document before running wildcard macros as a just-in-case option. If using wildcard macros on a portion of a document that can be temporarily moved to its own document, it is recommended that you move the material. Whenever using any macro, use caution.

Clicking Wildcard in EditTools brings up the dialog shown below, which gives you options. If you manually create Find and Replace strings, you can save them to a wildcard dataset (1) for future recall and reuse. If you already have strings that might work, you can retrieve them (2) from an existing wildcard dataset. And if you have taken the next step with Wildcards in EditTools and created a script, you can retrieve the script (3) and run it. (A script is simply a master macro that includes more than 1 string. Instead of retrieving and running each string individually, you retrieve a script that contains multiple strings and run the script. The script will go through each string it contains automatically in the order you have entered the strings.)

Wildcard Interface

Wildcard Interface

As an example, if I click Retrieve from WFR dataset (#2 above), the dialog shown below opens. In this instance, I have already created several strings (1) and I can choose which string I want to run from the dropdown. Although you can’t see it, this particular dataset has 40 strings from which I can choose. After choosing the string I want to run, it appears in the Criteria screens (2 and 3), divided into the Find portion of the string and the Replace portion. I can then either Select (4) the strings to be placed in primary dialog box (see Wildcard Interface above) or I can Edit (5) the strings if they need a bit of tweaking.

Wildcard Dataset Dialog

Wildcard Dataset Dialog

If I click Select (4 above), the strings appear in the primary Wildcard dialog as shown below (1 and 2). Because it can be hard to visualize what the strings really look like when each part is separated, you can see the strings as they will appear to Microsoft Word (3). In addition, you know which string you chose because it is identified above the criteria fields (purple arrow). Now you have choices to make. You can choose to run a Test to be sure the criteria work as expected (4), or if you know the criteria work, as would be true here, you can choose to Find and Replace one at a time or Replace All (5).

The Effect of Clicking Select

The Effect of Clicking Select

I know that many readers are saying to themselves, “All well and good but I don’t know how to write the strings, so the capability of saving and retrieving the strings isn’t of much use to me.” Even if you have never written a wildcard string before, you can do so quickly and easily with EditTools.

Creating Our String

Let’s begin with the first reference shown in the References as Received image above. We need to tackle this item by item. Here is what the author names look like as received:

Kondo, M., Wagers, A. J., Manz, M. G., Prohaska, S. S., Scherer, D. C., Beilhack, G. F. et al.:

What we have for the first name in the list is

[MIXED case multiletter surname][comma][space][single UPPERCASE letter][period][comma]

which makes up a unit. That is, a unit is the group of items that need to be addressed as a single entity. In this example, each complete author name will constitute a unit.

This first unit has 6 parts to it (1 part = 1 bracketed item) and we have identified what each part is (e.g., [MIXED case multiletter surname]). To find that first part we go to the Wildcard dialog, shown below, click the * (1) next to the blank field in line 1. Clicking the * brings up the Select Wildcard menu (2) from which we choose we choose Character Menu (3). In the Character Menu we choose Mixed Case (4) because that is the first part of the unit that we need to find.

Wildcard First Steps

Wildcard First Steps

When we choose Mixed Case (4 above), the Quantity dialog below appears. Here you tell the macro whether there is a limit to the number of characters that fit the description for this part. Because we are dealing with names, just leave the default of no limit. However, if we knew we only wanted names that were, for example, 5 letters or fewer in length, we would decheck No Limit and change the number in the Maximum field to 5.

How many letters?

How many letters?

Clicking OK in the Quantity results in entry of the first portion of our string in the Wildcard dialog (1, below). This tells the macro to find any grouping of letters — ABCd, Abcde, bCdaefTg, Ab, etc. — of any length, from 1 letter to 100 or more letters. Thus we have the criteria for the first part of our Find unit even though we did not know how to write wildcardese. In the dialog, you can see how the portion of the string really looks to Microsoft Word (2) and how, if you were to manually write this part using Microsoft Word’s Find & Replace, it would need to be written.

How this part looks in wildcardese

How this part looks in wildcardese

The next step is to address the next part, which can be either [comma] alone or [comma][space]. What we need to be careful about is that we remember that we will need the [space] in the Replace string. If we do [comma][space] and if we do not have just a [space] entry, we will need to provide it. For this example, I will combine them.

Because these are simple things, I enter the [comma][space] directly in the dialog as shown below. With my cursor in the second blank field (1), I simply type a comma and hit the spacebar. You can verify this by looking below in the Find line of wildcardese (2), where you can see (, ):

Manually adding the next part

Manually adding the next part

The remaining parts to do are [single UPPERCASE letter][period][comma]. They would be done using the same techniques as the prior parts. Again, we would have to decide whether the [period] and [comma] need to go on separate lines or together on a single line. Why? Because we want to eliminate the [period] but keep the [comma]. If they are done together as we did [comma][space], we will manually enter the [comma] in the Replace.

For the [single UPPERCASE letter], we would follow the steps in Wildcard First Steps above except that instead of Mixed Case, we would select UPPER CASE, as shown here:

Selecting UPPER CASE from the Characters Menu

Selecting UPPER CASE from the Characters Menu

This brings up the Quantity dialog where we decheck No Limit and, because we know it is a single letter we want found, use the default Minimum 1 and Maximum 1, as shown here:

A Quantity of 1

A Quantity of 1

Clicking OK takes us to the main Wildcard dialog where the criteria to find the [single UPPERCASE letter] has been entered (1, below). Looking at the image below, you can see it in the string (2). For convenience, the image also shows that I manually entered the [period][comma] on line 4 (3 and 4).

The rest of the Find criteria

The rest of the Find criteria

The Wildcard Replace

The next step is to create the Replace part of the string. Once again, we need to analyze our Find criteria.

We have divided the Find criteria into these 4 parts, which together make up the Find portion of the string:

  1. [MIXED case multiletter surname]
  2. [comma][space]
  3. [single UPPERCASE letter]
  4. [period][comma]

The numbers represent the numbers of the fields that are found in the primary dialog shown above (The Rest of the Find Criteria). What we need to do is determine which fields we want to replace and in what order. In this example, what we want to do is remove unneeded punctuation, so the Replace order is the same as the Find order. We want to end up with this:

  1. [MIXED case multiletter surname]
  2. [space]
  3. [single UPPERCASE letter]
  4. [comma]

The way we do so is by filling in the Replace fields. The [space] and the [comma] we can enter manually. You can either enter every item manually or you can let the macro give you a hand. Next to each field in the Replace column is an *. Clicking on the * brings up the Select Wildcard dialog:

Select Wildcard

Select Wildcard

Because what we need is available in the Find Criteria, we click on Find Criteria. However, the Select Wildcard dialog also gives us options to insert other items that aren’t so easy to write in wildcardese, such as a symbol. When we click Find Criteria, the Use Find Criteria dialog, shown below, appears. It lists everything that is found in the Find criteria by line.

Use Find Criteria dialog

Use Find Criteria dialog

Double-clicking the first entry (yellow highlighted) places it in the first line of the Replace, but by a shortcut — \1 — as shown in the image below (1). If we wanted to reverse the order (i.e., instead of ending up with Kondo M, we want to end up with M Kondo,), we would select the line 3 entry in the Use Find Criteria Dialog above, and double-click it. Then \3 would appear in the first line of Replace instead of \1.

The completed wildcard macro

The completed wildcard macro

For convenience, I have filled the Replace criteria (1-4) as The Completed Wildcard Macro image above shows. The [space] (2) and the [comma] (4) I entered manually using the keyboard. The completed Replace portion of the string can be seen at (5).

The next decision to be made is how to run the string — TEST (6) or manual Find/Replace (7) or auto Replace All (8). If you have not previously tried the string or have any doubts, use the TEST (6). It lets you test and undo; just follow the instructions that appear. Otherwise, I recommend doing a manual Find and Replace (7) at least one time so you can be certain the string works as you intend. If it does work as intended, click Replace All (8).

You will be asked whether you want to save your criteria; you can preempt being asked by clicking Add to WFR dataset (9). You can either save to an existing dataset or create a new dataset. And if you look at the Wildcard Dataset dialog above (near the beginning of this essay), you will see that you can not only name the string you are saving, but you can provide both a short and a detailed description to act as reminders the next time you are looking for a string to accomplish a task.

Spend a Little Time Now, Save Lots of Time Later

Running the string we created using Replace All on the file we started with, will result in every instance of text that meets the Find criteria being replaced. I grant that the time you spend to create the string and test it will take longer than the second and subsequent times you retrieve the string and run it, but that is the idea: spend a little time now to save lots of time later.

I can tell you from the project I am working on now that wildcarding has saved me more than 30 hours of toiling so far. I have already had several chapters with 400 or more references that were similar to the example above (and a couple that were even worse). Wildcarding let me clean up author names, as here, and let me change cites from 1988;52(11):343-45 to 52:343, 1988 in minutes.

As you can see from this exercise, wildcarding need not be difficult. Whether you are an experienced wildcarder or new to wildcarding, you can harness the power of wildcarding using EditTools’ WildCard Find & Replace. Let EditTools’ WildCard Find & Replace macro system help you. Combine wildcarding with EditTools’ Journals macro and references become quicker and easier.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Related An American Editor essays are:

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September 23, 2013

The Twin Pillars of Editing

The twin pillars of editing are the thinking and the mechanical. Every editing assignment includes these twin pillars; they are fundamental as well as foundational.

The thinking pillar is what attracts people to the profession. Should it be who or whom? Does the sentence, paragraph, chapter make any sense? Does the author’s point come through clearly or have the author’s word choices obfuscated the message? The thinking pillar is what professional editors live for; it is often why we became editors. The semantic debates thrill us; the ability to rework prose to make it flow better is like an opiate.

Alas, the thinking pillar alone is insufficient to provide us with an income. Every manuscript requires the mechanical pillar and, to earn our wage, editors need to tackle that mechanical pillar.

The mechanical pillar includes many different functions, such as cleaning up extra spaces, changing incorrect dashes to correct dashes, incorrect punctuation to correct punctuation, and, perhaps most importantly, incorrect words to correct words and inconsistencies to consistencies. Many of these things can be, should be, and are done using macros.

Since 1984, I have earned my living as an editor; since the early 1990s, freelance editing has been my only source of income. I am pleased to say that I have made (and continue to make) an excellent income as an editor. The reason I have done well financially is that I have looked at the mechanical pillar of editing as a puzzle to be solved. Essentially, to be profitable and to make editing enjoyable, I want to minimize the time I need to spend on the mechanical aspects of editing and maximize the time I spend on thinking about what I am editing, while minimizing the time I need to spend on any single project.

The professional editor is part philosopher and part engineer. In our case, the engineer makes possible the philosopher. The mechanical pillar, which is the engineer’s role to tackle, often is the part of editing that most slows us down. It is the most difficult part of our work in the sense that it is difficult to find efficient, productive ways to speed the mechanical aspects. That is the function that macro tools try to fulfill, but we still end up doing individual searches and replaces to fix the rote things that the macros we use fail to fix.

The more financially successful an editor is, the more likely it is that the editor has mastered techniques that quickly eliminate some, if not most or all, of the tasks that fall under the mechanical pillar of editing. As I have stated many times before, mastering the mechanical aspects is why I created EditTools and why I use PerfectIt and Editorium macro programs. It is not that these programs eliminate the mechanical aspects of editing; rather, they reduce those tasks.

The remaining task is generally the applying of styles or codes to elements of the manuscripts. Unfortunately, this cannot be done automatically; I must read the manuscript to know whether something should be coded as a quote, a bulleted item, or something else. This is where, were we to apply a Venn diagram, the thinking and the mechanical pillars overlap.

The smaller I can make the overlap and mechanical areas of the Venn diagram, the larger the remaining area for the thinking pillar. The larger the thinking pillar, the more enjoyable the project. But this area is also the area in which I can best control my time.

Professional editors soon learn that there are some editorial questions that could be debated for hours and when the debate halts, still have not achieved a nondebatable resolution. In other words, many more hours could be spent on the point in question. Consequently, as we have honed our skills via the grindstone of experience, we have also developed a sense of how to best spend our time on the thinking pillar of editing.

We learn to stop debating endlessly whether to use serial commas or not, or whether which can be used if not preceded by a comma, or whether about is a true equivalent of approximately, or, my favorite, whether since and because are wholly interchangeable in all circumstances. (Another of my favorites is whether it is permissible to use due to in lieu of all its possible contextual meanings expanded.) Once we stop debating these issues, we begin to edge their resolution closer to the mechanical pillar.

If we decide that since can only be used in the sense of time, it becomes mechanical to change since to because or as in nontime usage. This becomes one more thing that liberates the thinking pillar to spend more time on those issues that require thinking skills. It also means that a little less time needs to be spent on the manuscript, unless we devote that time savings to the thinking pillar.

The point is that what editors need to seek to do, ultimately, is to increase what belongs as part of the mechanical pillar, lessen what falls within the overlap, and increase the time available for the thinking pillar. The more items that fall under the mechanical pillar and that can be macroized, the more income and profit an editor can make (assuming the editor is charging by a method other than the hourly method), because we can control the time we devote to the thinking pillar better than we can the time we devote to the mechanical pillar. The thinking pillar is like a bubble that can expand and contract as needed or as conditions warrant. The mechanical pillar lacks similar flexibility because there is a set amount of time required to accomplish all of the mechanical and overlap tasks. We reduce the time by using tools like macros, but then we increase the time when we add additional tasks or tasks that cannot be macroized.

If we think of editing as built on these twin pillars, we can make strides toward increasing our productivity, efficiency, and profitability.

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