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 27, 2010

Transitioning in a Microsoft World: Toolbar Toggle

In an earlier article, Why, Microsoft, Do You Insist On Torturing Me?, I discussed my frustration with the Microsoft ribbon that is being forced on me by Office 2010. I also discussed my moving from Windows XP to Windows 7. I thought it appropriate to give an update, as well as introduce you to an inexpensive bit of software that greatly eases my Office frustrations: Toolbar Toggle.

Let’s start with Windows 7. I’ve been using it for several weeks now, and all I can say is Wow! Great! Excellent! I think with Windows 7 you can throw any accolade you want at it and the accolade will stick.

Win 7 has been an absolute delight. This coming weekend, my computer goes back into the shop for another Win 7 changeover. To go from XP to Win 7 without doing a clean install, I had to upgrade to Win 7 32-bit. Knowing that ultimately I want a 64-bit system, I converted all of my hard drives to “hot-swappable” hard drives (which means I can simply pull out one hard drive and plug in another). Now, while I’m at the Finding Your Niche Conference (see A Reminder: The Finding Your Niche Conference) this coming weekend, my local computer shop will prepare a new hot-swappable hard drive for me that is Win 7 64-bit. This will allow me to gradually set up the 64-bit system for work yet allow me to continue to earn a living by working on the 32-bit system.

Although Win 7 was a great success and I highly recommend it, Office 2010 was more problematic. installation went smoothly, but I have problems using the ribbon system efficiently. I need to learn to modify it and accommodate to it, and Toolbar Toggle is helping me make that transition.

I skipped Office 2007 because of the ribbons and the inability to easily customize them. In this regard, Office 2010 is a big improvement — the ribbons are somewhat customizable and what customizing can be done is easy to do. But I still hate the ribbons. It has increased the number of steps I need to take to get a task done and it changes a work style that I have learned over 25+ years of Microsoft Office use. But change does come and one has to learn to deal with it.

I haven’t completely left Word 2003 (I have left completely Excel 2003, Outlook 2003, and PowerPoint 2003 for their 2010 counterparts; it is just Word, my daily workhorse that I haven’t yet abandoned) because I can get my work done much more efficiently in Word 2003 than in Word 2010.

But my abandonment of Word 2003 will happen in the next couple of weeks thanks to Toolbar Toggle. Toolbar Toggle gives me my Word 2003 menu system in Word 2010 (it also does the same for Excel and PowerPoint, but I personally don’t feel the need for it in those programs). It doesn’t do away with the ribbon system, it complements it by making both available (or you can hide one or the other).

Toolbar Toggle is fully customizable, just like the toolbars in Word 2003. Consequently, as I am learning to adjust to the new Word system, I can fall back on the old system. It’s a crutch for those who are like me and are uncomfortable with the ribbon system. I keep both the ribbon and the Word 2003-style toolbar visible as I work in Word 2010. I try to use the ribbon system as much as I can, and am constantly tweaking it to get it to conform to my way of working, but rather than curse at my computer and want to punch out Word 2010 because I’m frustrated with the ribbon system, I just go to the Toolbar Toggle Word 2003 toolbar and move on.

Toolbar Toggle is inexpensive. There are two versions, a Lite and Full (what I call Pro). A single-user license for the Lite costs $12.95 and $19.95 for the Full. The Full version also includes a license for the Lite version and can be installed on 2 computers, covering both your desktop and laptop, for example, for $19.95. A comparison of the two versions is found here. One major difference is that the Lite version becomes part of the ribbon whereas the Full creates its own toolbar below the ribbon. You can see a demo of Toolbar Toggle here.

And some good news: Until October 31, 2010, you can buy the Full version with a 20% discount. At checkout, just enter the code NICHE20OFF.

Toolbar Toggle tech support is absolutely fantastic. I had some questions in the beginning about customization and sent off an e-mail; within hours I had a reply.

If you are struggling with the transition to Office 2007/2010 or have put off making the transition because of the ribbon and not wanting to forsake the menu system of Offices 2003 and earlier, then this is the add-on for you. I have found it invaluable and the price is hard to beat for the help it provides. I view Toolbar Toggle as a must-have add-on for Office 2010 so as to be able to keep up with my work flow as I transition to the new ribbon system.

In addition, it is a great complement to the Editorium, EditTools, and PerfectIt macros discussed in The 3 Stages of Copyediting: I — The Processing Stage, II — The Copyediting Stage, and III — The Proofing Stage, respectively, because it makes my editing work easier to do.

(Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with the maker of Toolbar Toggle and I do not receive any compensation from any sales of Toolbar Toggle. I purchased my own copies of the Full/Pro version for each of my computers at full retail and use the product myself. I am recommending it because it is a great tool for those of us who want the menu system of Office 2003 but the new features of Office 2010.)

August 3, 2010

The 3 Stages of Copyediting: I — The Processing Stage

Mechanically, the copyediting process can be divided into 3 stages:

  • the processing stage, where the manuscript is prepared for the copyediting process;
  • the copyediting stage in which the manuscript is actually copyedited; and,
  • the proofing stage, where the manuscript is checked for the misses that occurred during the copyediting stage.

Each stage has its own methods and focus, but all 3 stages are performed (usually) by the same editor, and a professional editor has an arsenal of tools at hand to make the work of each stage more accurate and efficient. As with most things, every professional editor has his or her favorite tools. Unfortunately, some still use what I call the hit-or-miss method, which is dealing with each thing as they stumble upon it rather than having a coordinated routine that is applied to all projects.

It is true that every project is unique unto itself, but there are still universalities that fit neatly under a planned approach. For example, today it is well established that only a single space follows punctuation, not the double space that was the convention when we were using typewriters to prepare manuscript. Converting double spaces to single spaces is one of those universalities — and there are numerous others.

Today, most editorial work is done in Microsoft Word; it has become the de facto standard software for publishing — but only for the manuscript preparation stages. Typesetting is done in professional page makeup programs like InDesign and one of the jobs of a professional editor is to prepare the author’s manuscript — mechanically — for smooth transition from Word to InDesign (or whatever page makeup program is being used). Consequently, what is discussed in the following paragraphs assumes that the underlying program is Word.

Stage I: The Processing Stage

This stage is a mechanical stage. This is where the manuscript is cleaned up, and author excesses are laid to rest. Most of this work can be done by macro; it is the work that doesn’t require constant decision making. In this stage, the editor changes, for example, double spaces to single spaces, changes double hyphens to em-dashes and hyphens between numbers to en-dashes, changes underline to italics, removes extra paragraph returns, puts punctuation inside quotation marks, superscripts reference numbers, and so forth.

The processing stage is an ideal stage for macros. To make the task easy, many editors use FileCleaner from The Editorium. This set of macros was developed specifically to address the common cleanup problems copyeditors deal with routinely. The Editorium also offers other macro programs to help automate the routine processing tasks. Two of my favorites — and two I could not do without — are Notestripper, which fixes the problems of embedded footnotes and endnotes that otherwise are not easily editable, and ListFixer, which takes Word’s autogenerated lists and converts them to fixed text so they can be edited.

Another set of processing stage macros is found in EditTools by wordsnSync. Two particularly useful macros in the EditTools collection for the processing stage are Superscript Me and Page Number Format. In-text reference numbering is often supposed to be superscripted, but authors tend to either place them in parens or brackets (i.e., (1) or [1]), and sometimes they use both methods. I regularly deal with chapters that have more than 500 reference callouts (I recall once editing a book-length chapter that had more than 2,800 reference callouts in it — not one of which was superscripted as required!). Think about how long it would take to manually delete the parens or brackets and to superscript the callout number — and then compare that to using Superscript Me, which does the task in seconds. Page Number Format addresses another typical problem: conforming the reference page range style the author used to the publisher’s style. Again, in seconds, this problem can be fixed with EditTools.

EditTools and The Editorium macros are two commercially available programs of sophisticated macros to preprocess a manuscript and get it ready for editing. The idea is to take the drudgery out of the mechanical tasks that need to be done, get those tasks done quickly, efficiently, and accurately.

Editors who do not use commercial programs to do these tasks either have to create their own macros to address their own needs, manually undertake the cleanup using Word’s Find & Replace, or address each item as they come to it during the copyediting stage. Using Find & Replace to do one item at a time is a slow process and requires a checklist to insure that none of the standard tasks is omitted. It also requires knowledge of and comfort using Word’s wildcard capabilities. Editors who prefer to create their own macros or use the Find & Replace approach would do well to invest some time and effort in learning VBA (Visual Basic for Applications), Word’s macro language.

The least satisfactory method is to address each problem as you encounter it during the copyediting stage. Not only is this time-consuming, but it is distracting. During the copyediting stage the focus should be on the substance not the mechanics, although there will always be some overlap. Editors who do not already use macros from The Editorium or wordsnSync in the processing stage should consider trying them to see if the macros make their editing more efficient and less time-consuming.

Part II addresses the copyediting stage and some of the EditTools macros for this stage of the editing process.

(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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