Category Archives: Technical

Resources round-up: Microsoft Word

Welcome to this round-up of resources compiled by the CIEP. This time, our subject is Microsoft Word.

We have divided our picks into:

  • macros and other editing tools
  • Word tips
  • courses, webinars and books.

Macros and other editing tools

If you work in Word, and you talk to other editors, before long you’re likely to find yourself hearing about macros and other automated editing tools. PerfectIt is used by many freelance editors, and its website contains lots of useful FAQs and tips, as well as video tutorials, user guides and training. If you have further questions, Facebook has a group for PerfectIt users.

Recently PerfectIt launched a Chicago Manual of Style style sheet, which you can access if you’re a CMOS subscriber. Hilary Cadman has reviewed this feature for the CIEP.

Paul Beverley’s free macros, including the popular FRedit, are available through the ‘Macros for Editors’ menu on his website, and he has posted a number of useful explanatory videos on YouTube. Paul has also written a free book, Macros for Editors. Crystal Shelley has reviewed Paul Beverley’s macros.

The Editorium, run by wildcard expert Jack Lyon, hosts the new Editor’s Toolkit Plus 2023, a Word add-in that contains dozens of time-saving tools. The website also hosts EditTools, for editors working on complex documents. Jack Lyon’s Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, loved by many editors, is available via links on the Editorium site.

A simple tool that’s useful in creating author queries is TextExpander, which creates ‘snippets’ of text that you frequently use, allowing you to add them to a document with keyboard shortcuts.

Word tips

For Word users, there are plenty of tips available online. Allen Wyatt provides well-regarded Word tips. Or look on the Word MVP Site for a range of articles about every aspect of Word, written by volunteers. Or visit Hilary Cadman’s blog for useful tips.

Microsoft itself offers some videos on features like Find and Replace and using Word styles in its Word help & learning section. Or visit Microsoft’s tech community for tips, for example on using Word’s modern comments.

Courses, webinars and books

The CIEP’s Word for Practical Editing helps students to increase their editing efficiency by using Word’s tools and features. Editors Canada has a range of webinars on editing software, on subjects from text expanders and macros to increasing efficiency in Microsoft Word.

Individual editors offer courses on Word, too. Hilary Cadman offers courses on PerfectIt and Endnote, Word coaching, and most recently a course on Word styles and templates. Adrienne Montgomerie offers training on Word Essentials, and a book that can be used for self-study.

Finally, Geoff Hart’s book Effective Onscreen Editing, currently in its fourth edition, is widely recommended by advanced Word users.

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: Laptop and notebook by Maya Maceka on Unsplash; cat on keyboard by Александар Цветановић on Pexels.

Posted by Julia Sandford-Cooke, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP

Two editors introduce their favourite macros

Back in May 2022, Ben Dare wrote a handy beginner’s guide to macros that explains how to start using them. In this follow-up post, Ben introduces some of the macros he finds the most helpful when editing text. Fiction editor Katherine Kirk also talks about some of her favourite macros, and how she’s improved her efficiency by mapping macros to her gaming mouse.

Photo of water droplets on a leaf as a background image to the blog post title and authors: Two editors introduce their favourite macros by Ben Dare and Katherine Kirk

Ben Dare

When I begin with a Word document, I like to analyse it for style and consistency issues. Handily, there are macros to look for all sorts of things, without altering my document at all: spellings of names (ProperNounAlyse); hyphenation of words (HyphenAlyse); consistency of a whole selection of style choices (DocAlyse). Each gives a report in a separate Word document, helping me to understand where possible issues are and highlighting hard-to-spot errors.

But running each of those (and others) is a bit of a faff. So my first favourite macro is MegAlyse (yes, in my head it sounds like Megatron). This macro allows me to list the macros I’d like to analyse the document with and then runs them in an organised way (as long as I’ve installed them!), and it saves the results.

At this point I’ve got an idea of systematic things that I want to change or check individually, and I want to make those changes quickly and highlight things I know I’ll want to check. To do that, the second macro I use is FRedit. This macro has many abilities (there’s a manual!), but at its most basic it runs a list of global find and replace searches that I list in a separate document. It’s easy to experiment with – you can start with a small list and get to know this macro at your own pace – but it is important to know already what you can do with find and replace, including wildcards (and there’s a recent CIEP blog on that here).

Here’s a screenshot of a basic FRedit list, each line showing a find and replace with a vertical bar | separating them:

Screenshot showing the following five pieces of text each separated by a short vertical line: EM dash and EN dash; Navratilova with and without accents; amongst and among (highlighted yellow); Parliamentarians and ^& (highlighted green); ~[A-Za-z0-9]^13 and ^& (highlighted blue).

So with FRedit, in one go I can:

  1. Change all em dashes to spaced en dashes.
  2. Make a name always have the accents it needs.
  3. Change all ‘amongst’ to ‘among’ (the ¬ means it will do upper or lower case); it will also apply yellow highlighting, which is my note to self: ‘I’ve changed this but check it’ – I noticed some ‘amongst’ were in quotations and will need changing back.
  4. Retain ‘Parliamentarians’ (the ^& means replace with what you found, i.e. no change) but highlight in green, which tells me: ‘Not changed but needs checking for client’ – here the client wants lower case, but there were lots beginning sentences, so I’ve just marked them to check.
  5. Find any paragraph that ends in a letter or number, not punctuation (the ~ tells FRedit it’s a wildcard find to search for that range of characters in square brackets). It also adds blue highlight, which is my note to self: ‘Generic issue to check’.

This mixture of changes and highlighting makes things to do or check helpfully visible, but the highlighting does need to be removed. Cue the macro: HighlightMinus. Have the cursor on the appropriate line, or select some text, and the macro removes the highlighting. (Bonus mention: HighlightPlus is great for adding highlighting, to flag something for the client or that you want to come back to.)

Working through a text, some edits take a few mouse clicks/keyboard strokes to do. There are macros to do these tasks more quickly, saving seconds each time, adding up to many minutes over a project. An example is SwapWords: if the document has ‘it badly fell’ and I want ‘it fell badly’, I place the cursor in the first of the words to be swapped, run the macro, and it swaps the two words. It saves the time of manually moving or retyping text, and prevents those little slips of human error. (Bonus mention: SwapCharacters does the same for adjacent characters, handy for swapping quote marks with full stops and commas.)

I’m always reminded there’s stuff I don’t know. GoogleFetch takes the word by the cursor, or a selected phrase, and switches to a browser and searches Google (other providers are available!). It’s quick, easy and less clicking. (Bonus mention: DictionaryFetch does the same but searches an online dictionary.)

The above macros are written by Paul Beverley and are freely available to all. But many useful macros can’t be downloaded – I record them, or alter a pre-existing one, to suit my particular needs. Recording is great for repetitive, simple jobs. Altering doesn’t have to be scary: find a macro that does nearly what you want, tweak it and see what happens (on a spare doc!). For example, a client wanted me to follow the ‘Guardian and Observer style guide’ – so I changed GoogleFetch to open the appropriate Guardian style page for a word instead. It took a bit of learning, but it saved oodles of time in the end. You can even share your attempts and ask for advice on the CIEP macro forum. (Bonus mention: DictionaryFetchByLanguage came from such a process.)

Photo of a water droplet creating ripples on a lake

Katherine Kirk

Like Ben, I use a combination of analysis macros and look-up macros, like MerriamFetch, which searches the term I’m pointing at in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. But my absolute favourites are the ones that cut down on key combinations that I use all the time. If I can reduce a repetitive set of button pushes to a single click, then it adds up to hours of time saved, and it also reduces repetitive strain on my fingers. Even better, it frees up convenient key combinations for less frequently used macros!

The best thing I did for my efficiency this year was to get a gaming mouse. I use a Logitech G502, and as well as the scroll wheel and left and right-click buttons, it has five extra programmable buttons. I can also push the scroll wheel right or left to trigger more macros. This means I can have seven macros right there without moving my hand to my keyboard. Other editors swear by the Wacom tablet, which gives you much more functionality, but I personally love the satisfying click of the mouse buttons. Also, doing it this way eased the learning curve, which made it much less intimidating. And don’t tell my boss,* but outside of work, I use the mouse for playing games too!

I decided to set the programmable mouse buttons up to improve my workflow. I thought about the routine button pushes I use in every job and settled on the ones that I use most often. These are the macros that have made it onto the mouse:

  • StartSession does a simple search for ‘[]’ in the text, which is a kind of shorthand bookmark I’ve been using since my early days. I find Word’s built-in ‘pick up where you left off’ is a little deficient. I also use this when I need to pause my line-by-line editing to jump around for a global consistency check, so I can find my way back and carry on. I used Word’s macro recording tools to create the Start and End Session macros.
  • VisibleTrackOff4 toggles Track Changes on and off, and it changes the background to yellow when it’s off so I don’t make accidentally untracked changes.
  • GoogleFetch makes fact-checking quicker, since it saves me having to tab over to my browser.
  • MerriamUnabridgedFetch lets me stay on top of hyphenation, capitalisation and spelling much more easily. I mostly work with US texts.
  • Sliding my scroll wheel to the left finds the next instance of something I just searched for in the text. I matched it to the built-in shortcut in Word, Shift+F4, so I didn’t have to create a macro for it.
  • Sliding my scroll wheel to the right scrolls down five lines and moves the cursor back up four, which keeps the text I’m working on comfortably in the middle of the screen. I don’t remember who gave me the macro for that, possibly on the CIEP forums, but they called it TestScroll.
  • Finally, EndSession types my handy little ‘[]’ bookmark and saves the document, ready for the next work sprint.

Here’s how that all looks mapped to the mouse buttons. The labels with an M are macros I’ve assigned.

Diagram of a gaming mouse showing macros mapped to mouse buttons or the scroll wheel Diagram of the side of a gaming mouse showing macros mapped to mouse buttons

Besides the ones mapped to my mouse, the macros I use the most often are the ones that trim down the button pushes needed to make common changes. I work with fiction, so for me, that’s mostly things like changing ‘Yes.She said to ‘Yes, she said. I use Paul Beverley’s CommaInDialogue macro to change that full stop and capital letter into a comma and lowercase letter with a single key combination (CTRL+ALT+,).

As I explore more macros, I want to spend a little more time practising with Paul’s ‘speed editing’ macros. Minimising the time spent on repetitive little tasks means I work faster, and that makes my hourly rate go up without it costing my clients more and without sacrificing accuracy. But really, what I love most about using efficiency-boosting macros like these is that they make me feel like I’m the captain of my own spaceship. The control panel is only as complicated as I want it to be, and I can always add new magic buttons as I discover the need for them.


*I’m a freelancer. The boss is me.

About Ben Dare

Ben Dare is a Professional Member of the CIEP and copyedits/proofreads for projects on sustainable food systems and sustainable living (and almost anything else when asked nicely). Otherwise, he’s probably playing with Lego or Gravitrax, cooking, running, swimming or (regrettably) doing chores.

About Katherine Kirk

Katherine Kirk is a fiction editor who lives halfway up a volcano in Ecuador. She works on all types of fiction for adults, especially Science Fiction and Literary Fiction.

She also edits Tabletop Role-playing Game (TTRPG) content. Katherine can be found talking about macros on Twitter and Mastodon.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: purple leaf and water droplet both by Pixabay on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP

Forum matters: Creating and editing web content

This feature comes from the band of CIEP members who serve as forum moderators. You will only be able to access links to the posts if you’re a forum user and logged in. Find out how to register.

Posts on this topic that are more than a year old might be of only historical interest, given how fast technology changes. The threads referred to in this article have been selected because they link pretty directly to work on websites, but don’t forget that issues of accessibility also apply to (or can be found in relation to) other media, such as PDFs.

Your own website

Although many editors and proofreaders rely on social media to network and expand their business, there is no doubt that having your own website helps establish your professionalism and is a good place for information about you that may get lost on Facebook and Instagram, or when LinkedIn and Twitter revamp their algorithms, or a newcomer takes people up another highway. One member’s request, Advice needed: moving from self-publishing to traditional fiction editing, ranged far and wide and pointed to just that conclusion.

Even if you’ve embraced the idea of developing a website it can be a slog, and a quick reach-out via the forums has kept members on track (‘How best to prioritise?’). After deciding to use a website design company, forum members have asked for recommendations, in threads entitled ‘website’ and ‘Web hosting and domain registrars’. Even that tricky sub-subject of emails has been covered in Email hosting recommendations.

Many CIEP members create and manage their own websites and have shared hard-earned advice on sites and specifics. You may already have chosen a provider, but if you are thinking of managing your own website then maybe you should have a look first at: Squarespace help; Creating a website then Websites again; Portfolio on WordPress website and New member & request for advice.

Members have asked each other for a quick review of their new or revamped websites (see Quid (I proofread your website) pro quo (you proofread mine) and quick website check) and for help on specifics such as T&Cs and Domain Name Extensions, or about the principles of Pricing and its absence on editor websites and the Use of first-person in freelance websites. The number of replies does vary, and sometimes the first one nails the answer, while at other times the discussion ranges so far you feel you’ve attended a mini-course in the subject – see Struggling to be competitive.

There are some topics that apply to more than websites but will certainly add a professional gloss, such as a source to spruce up the background of your profile pic in Useful website to create/edit profile pics or useful advice on accessibility in Text colours and backgrounds – best and worst for legibility? and Q about hyperlinks in Forum signature.

Laptop and notebook

Working on other websites

You don’t have to have created a website to be able to work on one (although it does help), but it is worth doing some training on the subject. CIEP offers two specific courses: Editing Digital Content and Web editing. But the forums are also up there when it comes to learning. We’ve all had an itch when we’ve spotted some bad practice and asked ourselves, should I say something? Read the thread and then decide.

You’d think a business would see editing their website as a no-brainer, but sometimes getting at the content can be tricky. Copyediting of websites and general advice on editing a website offer some useful insights and links.

SEO and accessibility are two aspects that you really need to get to grips with if you are going to offer a good service to website clients, and the forums are full of good advice on: best font/typeface for emails; quote marks and other punctuation for easy reading and accessibility; Rewording a bullet list for a website; Should numbers be spelled out in Websites?; Providing hyperlinks: best practice?

Good luck with your own and other websites. And don’t hold back on developing your skills and sharing your experiences through the CIEP forums.

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credit: laptops by Louise Viallesoubranne, notebook and laptop by Marissa Grootes, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Talking tech: Web editors – WYSIWYG or code?

In this Talking tech column, Andy Coulson discusses two types of web editing tools – WYSIWYG and code-based – designed for editing HTML (HyperText Markup Language) content on websites.

The October 2022 issue of member newsletter The Edit is about web editing, so I’m going to look at two types of web editing tools that are well suited to editing content on sites where the content is mainly in HTML (HyperText Markup Language). The content of a webpage is generally held as an HTML file. This is an unformatted (plain text) file that contains the text content and tags describing the function of the text (heading, paragraph, etc), which can then be used to format the text or potentially manipulate it. The tags appear in angle brackets, eg <H1>title</H1>.

However, the web has changed drastically over the last ten years or so and many websites don’t only use HTML. Most sites now separate out a lot of formatting information using CSS (cascading style sheets) files. Many sites also include JavaScript and other programming code to create interactive and dynamic elements on the page. When you are focusing on the content, not only can this be a distraction, but there is potentially a lot of scope to create problems. This is why, broadly, I am focusing on tools with good HTML support, although they can also deal with other files, such as CSS and active elements like JavaScript.

Many smaller websites are created using online website creator systems such as WordPress, Squarespace and Wix. These give you direct access to the content text, making for a simpler editing experience without losing access to the advanced features described above. They make extensive use of templates that can mask a lot of complexity. They will often offer the features I’ll describe in reviewing the two types of editor below. So it is worth checking if those have been used and if you can access the content through those systems.

Text or visual editing?

The two types of tool I am going to look at are code editors and WYSIWIG (what you see is what you get). I have picked two editors, one of each type, both of which are free. Most web developers will use commercial packages, such as Adobe’s Dreamweaver WYSIWYG editor, and code editors such as Eclipse and Microsoft’s Visual Studio, but for some basic text editing the following should provide sufficient tools to let you get started.

The code editor displays the HTML code, and to preview the webpage you need to view it in a browser. In contrast, a WYSIWYG editor gives you a live preview of the page as you edit. Many of these will provide templates to help you create a professional-looking website with minimal coding. Online web creators like WordPress and Wix also tend to offer these features. WYSIWYG editors often let you work directly on the graphical screen. For example, you can drag and drop an image onto a webpage and the editor will generate the appropriate code.

So, you might wonder, why would you use a code editor, particularly as WYSIWYG editors often incorporate a code editor? For me the answer is simplicity. Most code editors are smaller, simpler programs. There are fewer features, but that also means there are fewer to sort through to find what you want, and the learning curve can be less steep. The code editor, generally, uses less memory, which can still be an advantage even with today’s big memory machines. If you need to test the HTML files, you can do this with your web browser (or more probably web browsers, as things may work differently in Chrome and Firefox). Ultimately though, this will come down to personal choice.

None of the webpage editing tools (as far as I am aware) have features like Track Changes or comments. This means you will need to keep track of these separately. While you can add comments to HTML by enclosing them in ‘<!–’ and ‘–>’ tags, they are not that easy to see within the HTML file. Using these will depend on what your client needs.

Code: Notepad++

For this review I am going to use Notepad++, which is a very flexible general code editor with good HTML support. While this is not aimed purely at web editing, I think it is a clear and well-written program that is simply nice to use. It can be downloaded from here.

Screenshot from Notepad++

Notepad++ provides a relatively familiar interface to anyone who has used older versions (pre-ribbon) of Word. Much of the left-hand side of the menu and many of the buttons will be familiar too. The real strengths of a code editor are the features to help you read through the HTML (or other code) easily, such as code completion (where the editor recognises commands or tags as you type and completes them for you, reducing missed closing tags) and syntax highlighting (where tag names and the values associated with them are highlighted in different colours, allowing you to more easily read the text). Here I’ve used the Style Configurator in the Settings menu to tell the program this is HTML and select a colour scheme – for example, blue for tags and pale brown for text.

WYSIWYG: BlueGriffon

For this review I am using BlueGriffon, which you can download from here. It is based on the same rendering engine (the bit of software that turns the HTML and other code into a webpage) as the Firefox web browser.

BlueGriffon has a nice clean interface and typically opens with the webpage in WYSIWYG view. In the screenshot below, I have used the dual view that opens a code editor with the webpage view. You can work directly in the webpage view, so correcting spelling mistakes like ‘servive’ in the last line of ‘About Me’ is straightforward. As you move around the webpage view on the left, the elements are highlighted in the code editor.

Screenshot from BlueGriffon

Many of the basic formatting features are shown down the left-hand side of the screen and help you to add neatly formatted (and hence coded) content. Compared to Dreamweaver, BlueGriffon has a relatively simple interface and limited feature set. This can be an advantage, as in editing the content you will only need a small proportion of the features available.

I mentioned testing in different web browsers earlier, and one nice feature in BlueGriffon is the globe button on the toolbar. If you click on this it allows you to open the file using another application, typically a web browser. If you have maths or foreign language characters this is worth doing, as these are examples of things that will render differently on different browsers.

Summary

BlueGriffon is available on Windows, Mac and Linux, but Notepad++ is only available on Windows and Linux. There is an alternative, CotEditor, for Mac that offers similar features to Notepad++. All three of these are free to download, which makes them very practical for occasional use, but they also have sufficient features for more intensive use.

Quick tip: Site maps

Here’s a quick tip that may be useful when you are working with websites. If you need to check what pages a website contains you can create a site map. A site map can be used to help search engines understand your website, or for you to visualise the website’s structure. Essentially, it is a list of all the pages.

There are a number of site map generators on the internet; I have used xml-sitemaps.com. Here you enter the name of the homepage of the site and the system goes off and searches through all the branches of the website (or ‘crawls’ it, to use the technical term), generating a list of pages. You can then use this to check you have all the pages that need editing.

About Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson is a reformed engineer and primary teacher, and a Professional Member of the CIEP. He is a copyeditor and proofreader specialising In STEM subjects and odd formats like LaTeX.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: header image by publicarray on Pixabay, Notepad and BlueGriffon screenshots by Andy Coulson.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Flying solo: Focusing your website on your ideal client

In this Flying Solo column, Sue Littleford gets deep into the business of editing text for your website.

When it comes to the content of your website, there are four stages: the initial content creation of the text, editing it down to do the job efficiently, making it accessible and keeping your content fresh. Let’s take those in turn. (I’m not going to talk about using images in this article – but keep ’em relevant, keep ’em in small file sizes for faster page loading, use alt text for accessibility and be aware of copyright issues.)

Creating the initial content

To paraphrase Malini Devadas, of the recently (and, I hope, temporarily) mothballed Edit Boost, marketing boils down to (1) understanding what you do and (2) who you do it for, then (3) telling them about it.

Your website (alongside the CIEP Directory, for Professional and Advanced Professional Members), is the easiest place to demonstrate the first two, and do the third.

It’s clear that people don’t give your website much time to make a good first impression. I learned at the 2022 CIEP conference that websites have 50 milliseconds in which to do it.

Your content should therefore be attractive and engaging (how I hate that word ‘compelling’ in this context!), be easy to access in terms of language, layout and colours, and focus on the potential client.

So here’s the biggest piece of advice today: create an avatar of your ideal client, then write for them, specifically.

How can you help them? What problems do you solve? Why should they hire you?

It’s always about them, not about you. That should steer your writing.

Think not about what you offer, but about what your client needs.

Keywords are a big thing

These are the search terms that people use in browsers to find what they need. And as search engines have been developed to work with more natural language, so they now reward keywords that appear in natural writing, rather than being crammed in artificially.

Keywords come in three flavours, depending on their length. The shortest are short-tail keywords, and are a word or two long. Long-tail keywords are little phrases – five words or more in length. Medium-tail keywords fit snugly in between, at three or four words long. This flexibility means that using keywords of different lengths can still make the writing appear natural while getting good search engine optimisation – the SEO you hear bandied about.

Short-tail keywords are necessarily more generic: ‘proofreader’, ‘editing’ and so on. The longer the keyword, the more specific it becomes, which is why you need to know the keywords that people type into their search engines.

How do you find out the keywords people use?

There are a number of services available, some paid for, some not. If your website is live, Google’s Search Console will show you the keywords that people already use when finding your site.

Or you can simply search for your service in your browser (like most of the world, I use Google as my search engine, most of the time, anyway) and see what comes up at the bottom of the screen under the heading Related Searches or People Also Ask.

Google screenshot showing related searches

Google screenshot showing what people also ask

There you’ll see what people are typing into Google, which is what you want to incorporate into your content – somehow – so that you are found, too.

For instance, I’m a copyeditor. I don’t proofread – proofreading and I just do not get along. But I know that ‘proofreader’ is the catch-all term for what I do, and people outside the publishing industry will be searching for that, in all probability, or maybe for ‘editor’ far more than ‘copyeditor’. So, I lob ‘proofreader/​proofreading’ into my text whenever I can, even though I don’t offer that service. Google doesn’t read the negative!

Editing the content into shape

Once you’ve created your content (which you can, of course, tweak endlessly even after it’s live) you now need to make it look the part.

I buck the trend, as about 70% of my traffic is on computers, and only 30% on mobile devices (of the mobile devices, tablets barely get a look in. Most weeks, it’s just computers and phones). In most cases, those figures are reversed, I understand (I suspect it’s because I market to publishers and packagers, and people are searching during work hours at their desk; if you market to indie authors, I’d guess those figures flip over in favour of phones).

It’s therefore essential to think of how your content will look on a teensy-tiny phone screen, not just how it looks on your 33-inch monitor.

So that means subheadings (keyword magnets) for ease of navigation, short sentences and short paragraphs.

We editorial professionals do like our words. We use far too many of them (guilty as charged) so here’s a chance to practise your word-cutting on your own text.

Ask yourself what that ideal client of yours wants to know, and will be willing to read. It’s not necessarily what you want to say …

Aside from being visually accessible in terms of paragraph and sentence length, structured around those easy-to-navigate subheadings, you’ll want to make sure the language itself is also accessible. Take a look at a couple of ‘Flying solo’ articles on just this topic: Good communication is accessible and Conscious language and the business-conscious editor or proofreader for some guidance on this.

Then pare away at your text until every word earns its keep – but don’t be so concise that reading it is hard going.

When you’ve finished, your text should be doing a shining job of demonstrating your editorial skills (showing, as much as telling) and speak directly to your ideal client.

Shaping the edited content

When it comes to importing your text to your website, think about possible formatting issues, as you would with any text that is to be published.

Incorporate white space, avoid walls of text and make sure it is easy to find the bit you want. Choose an easy-to-read font, that’s big enough to read comfortably, even on a phone.

If you have things you want your reader to click on, have a button if you can, rather than an in-line link. On my site, the button to email me is pretty visible – different colour, big but not ridiculous.

Accessibility

In 2021 I completely renewed my website, including an entirely new colour palette. One of the hardest parts of the build was to make sure that there was sufficient contrast between text colour and background colour on links and buttons.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are supported by many websites offering to check a page and give instant feedback. My web guy and I spent a couple of hours going back and forth making sure we found colours that worked with the palette I’d chosen (I’d already had my logo redrawn – no going back! But the Coolors site helped us find compatible shades) and passed all the accessibility tests. I see that new colour contrast guidelines are on their way.

Keeping the content fresh

Search engines much prefer sites that don’t look neglected. That means periodically updating your text, whether that’s small tweaks, complete rewrites of a page, adding items to a resources page, posting a blog article regularly, adding new testimonials or adding whole new pages.

Throughout all your updates, do keep that avatar of your ideal client in mind.

But every now and again, as your business grows and you develop as an editor or proofreader, do ask yourself whether your ideal client has also changed. If so, work out a new avatar and then review all your content with that paragon at the forefront of your mind.

If you are getting more firmly established in a niche, you may want to trim your offer to reflect that, and stop targeting the type of client who is no longer a good fit for where you’re taking your business.

If you are adding services – maybe you’re a proofreader who now also copyedits, or now offers manuscript evaluation or developmental editing – then you have a new ideal client. Or one ideal client per service. Again, keep your text under review with that or those ideal clients front and centre of your thinking.


Buy a print copy or download the second edition of Going Solo: Creating your freelance editorial business from here.

About Sue Littleford

Sue Littleford is the author of the CIEP guide Going Solo, now in its second edition. She went solo with her own freelance copyediting business, Apt Words, in March 2007 and specialises in scholarly humanities and social sciences.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: header image by JESHOOTS.com, person on a computer by Andrea Piacquadio, both on Pexels, screenshots from Google.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Talking tech: Scrivener

In this Talking tech column, Andy Coulson takes a closer look at the writing software Scrivener, and investigates how it might also be useful for development editors, especially in fiction.

Header image of pen and notepaperWith any writing, if you ask most people what tools they use, Microsoft Word is likely to be the first thing that comes to mind. However, Scrivener is a tool for writers that its developers describe as a tool that ‘combines all the tools you need to create a first draft’. I’m going to take a look at Scrivener and see what it does and whether it might be a useful tool for us as editors and proofreaders to consider.

Scrivener has been around since 2006 and the current version (3.0) is available for Windows, Mac and iOS. It combines a word processor, outliner and tools to manage research. While this might sound like your familiar Word environment it offers a different, more flexible and freeform way to organise your work. The ‘Getting Started’ document in Scrivener describes a number of scenarios, but one in particular that felt familiar to me was where you might produce some parts of a written piece quickly and easily, but struggle with others. The process of producing a draft then involves linking those bits that are clear and filling in the gaps and the more unclear bits. Scrivener allows you to develop a process that lets you capture and reorganise those bits in a way that would be far more difficult in Word.

Features

Screenshot from Scrivener showing the sidebar on the left and document in the middle

Scrivener projects are not just a text file like Word (although Word files are a bit more complex than that): they are a collection of files that Scrivener refers to as a project. You can decide on your own organising principle, but for this article I will use the model the ‘Getting Started’ document in Scrivener uses. The key element is the binder, the sidebar in the interface that has a stacked list of all the elements of the project, which you can see on the left of the screenshot above. The content you are writing all sits within a ‘Draft’ folder. Under this there are top-level folders for chapters, second-level folders for parts and then documents, some of which have subdocuments containing the text.

Breaking up a large writing task in this way also helps to support the writing process (or any long project) by giving you a smaller task to aim at. Scrivener includes further tools that build on this, like writing targets. These allow you to set a target word count for the whole draft and for each writing session, which can help with motivation. The model of breaking, say, a chapter into smaller files can also help as it allows you to see your progress more clearly. There is also a ‘Composition Mode’ that is very clean and sparse if you find the distraction-free approach helps with writing.

One of the big differences from Word is that you can associate synopses and notes with each document. The synopsis is always linked to the document, and this can be viewed in the Outline and Corkboard tools to allow you to get different overviews of your whole project. Notes can then be used to keep any ideas that don’t need to be in the text, such as problems you can’t fix or ideas you can’t immediately work on, or what one review described as ‘a random epiphany’.

Another feature is that you can add labels and statuses to documents. You can assign labels for a whole project and give them different colours. You can use virtually anything as a label, but ‘Getting Started’ gives the example of using this to record the character whose point of view a document is written from, to help with reviewing the structure of a story. A status is a simple text label, intended to keep track of the state of the text – ‘done’, ‘in progress’, ‘first draft’, etc.

Another potentially useful feature is Snapshots. This allows you to take a snapshot of a document at a particular moment in time. You can then compare the text (but not format) changes in this to the current version and see the differences. In Scrivener you will tend to work on smaller chunks of text than in Word, as you split the project into multiple documents, which means the compare function is much easier to use than the one in Word.

Person researching their writing project

Scrivener also allows you to keep all of your research material within the project for easy reference. This can be material created in Scrivener (the ‘Getting Started’ document has examples of character and location sheets as the references for those things in a story), Word documents, PDFs, images, and video or audio files. These are all organised within a research folder in the binder. There is also a handy scratchpad feature for making quick notes about, say, a website that you can then save within your project.

You may remember that at the start of this section I said all of your writing is stored in a ‘Draft’ folder. This is so that you can export (or ‘compile’, in Scrivener terminology) the finished draft into another format. Scrivener supports a range of output formats, including docx and pdf. You can mark different levels of file or folder as different section types, so clearly identify where chapters and parts break. When you compile you can add further options, like using a specific font, or sectional numbering, giving you a lot of control over the finished output. The Word docx output looks very accurate and retains styles accurately, both by name and in the style features.

All in all, this is a well-written program with a clean and reasonably easy-to-use interface, given the number of features it has. Looking at it with my writing hat on I can really see the advantages of it. In many ways it is a much nicer writing environment than the standard Word interface, offering a less cluttered feel. With a 30 days actual usage trial (in other words you can use it in full for 30 days, even if it takes six months to do that) and for $45 this offers writers a really good alternative tool.

Scrivener for editors?

From an editing point of view, Scrivener lacks a lot of Word’s tools. There is no Track Changes function (although Snapshots could be used in an ad-hoc way), no support for macros and no support for PerfectIt. There is a comments function that is similar to Word’s Modern Comments feature but is slightly quicker to use. Comments are tagged with the name of their author along with the time and date. However, you can’t reply to comments like you can in Word.

For most copyeditors and proofreaders, Scrivener probably isn’t going to be much help. However, you can at least be certain that if your author uses Scrivener, the Word file you get will be an accurate representation of what they have. It may also mean that the author has notes and research to hand that will make dealing with queries simpler.

For development editors Scrivener could be a different proposition. It could certainly cut down on some of the back and forth of clarifying issues within a manuscript if the research, notes and comments are all available to the development editor. I think you could also manage quite a bit of the communication about the manuscript within the Scrivener file, again helping you to organise and follow how it develops.

About Andy Coulson

Andy CoulsonAndy Coulson is a reformed engineer and primary teacher, and a Professional Member of CIEP. He is a copyeditor and proofreader specialising In STEM subjects and odd formats like LaTeX.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: desktop by Tobias Herrmann on Pixabay; researcher by StockSnap on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

The basics of SEO for editors and proofreaders

Have you come across the term ‘search engine optimisation’, or SEO, and wondered what it means? Or perhaps you have a vague idea of what it is but you’re not sure how or when to use it? If you write or edit copy that will be published online, it’s useful to know some SEO basics to make sure your content ranks well on search engines. Rosie Tate explains how you can add value to copy that’s destined for the web.

What is SEO?

You edit or write the most fabulous copy and it’s published on a website. That’s great. But if it doesn’t appear in search results on search engines like Google or Bing, it’s unlikely to get much interest. Few people are going to simply stumble across it.

Search engine optimisation, or SEO, involves ‘optimising’ web pages to improve their position in search engine results. It can make the difference between a web page being found – and therefore read – and simply lurking in a lonely corner of the web. This is why SEO is such a big deal: the higher a website appears in the search results, the more people will see it.

So how do we optimise online content? There are several things you can do to increase the chances of a page being ranked well by search engines. If you want to give it a go without getting too technical, the following tips are a good place to start.

Use keywords

Let’s say you’ve been asked by a client to work on their website copy. They sell organic chocolate. The first thing to do is identify the main search terms, or ‘keywords’, that people actually type into Google when they’re looking to buy this product.

There are lots of free tools you can use, such as Keyword Generator. If you type in ‘organic chocolate’, it tells you that there are 700 monthly searches for this in the UK. It also gives you related search terms, such as ‘organic chocolate bar’ and ‘raw organic chocolate’. Choose one main keyword per web page and make sure this is used in the copy. You can also embed other keywords throughout your content.

Include your main keywords in headings

Headings act as signposts that guide a reader through a web page and make it easier to read. They also help Google to understand what the web page is all about, so include keywords in headings to help your page rank well.

You’ll need to strike the right balance between using keywords and ensuring the copy reads well. Beware of ‘keyword stuffing’, or copy crammed with keywords to please search engine algorithms. Headings should summarise the content on the page in a clear, informative way, and content should flow naturally.

Use links

An external link is a hyperlink that directs the user to another website. As well as being useful for readers and helping to give your website credibility, these can also give SEO a boost. External links help search engines determine the usefulness and quality of a web page. The search engines use metrics to determine the value of external links, including the trustworthiness and popularity of the site you’re linking to, and how relevant it is to the page you’re linking from.

Coming back to our organic chocolate example, if you link to an interesting article about how cocoa is grown, this can help Google figure out that your web page is about chocolate – and will therefore help to rank the content more favourably.

If you’re working on a whole website, it also helps to use internal links, or links between the different pages on your websites, where relevant. These help search engines determine how the content on your site is related and the value of each page. If there are lots of links to a particular page, search engines will see this as important and prioritise it when it comes to SEO.

Backlinks

Backlinks are links from other websites to your website. For instance, someone might advertise your services and include a link to one of your web pages, or you might write a piece of content for someone else that includes a link to your site. Backlinks are important for SEO because they help give your site authority, and search engines will favour pages with lots of quality backlinks. A backlink from a respected, high-authority website is better than one from a site that receives very few visits. So if you’re involved not only in editing or writing a website but also in promoting it, do some research on how backlinks can help to get your site found.

Play around with some online tools

There are lots of online tools you can use to make sure content is optimised. Here are three of my favourites:

Google Trends: This is a great free tool that shows you how much a term is searched for on Google over time and suggests similar trending topics.

Answer the Public: Enter a keyword to see what people are asking about around this topic. This can give you some great ideas if you’re planning content (and some interesting insights into the human mind).

Surfer SEO: OK, so this one isn’t free, but if you’re serious about SEO, you might want to give it a try. It includes a content editor where you paste in your copy and it tells you exactly what you need to do to optimise it.


The above merely scratches the surface of the world of SEO. If you want to dig deeper, there’s a wealth of free information out there. Good luck getting that content found online!

About Rosie Tate

Rosie Tate is co-founder of Tate & Clayburn, a London-based company that offers copyediting, proofreading, copywriting and translation services to clients worldwide. A first-class Oxford University languages graduate with an MA in Documentary Filmmaking, she’s an experienced editor, writer and producer, having worked for Oxford University Press, the BBC and Save the Children.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: SEO letters by NisonCo PR and SEO on Unsplash, chocolate by Vie Studio on Pexels, Google by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Talking tech: Can a machine use conscious language?

In this Talking tech column, Andy Coulson delves into the world of artificial intelligence to find out how it might be able to consider the use of conscious language or edit text in the future.

For this issue of The Edit my column is going to be a little different from normal. Usually, I try to highlight how technology can help you with the theme of the issue. This issue’s theme, conscious language, proves to be a bit of a challenge on that front. What I am going to do instead is to get the crystal ball out and do a bit of speculating about how technology might develop to help ensure more conscious language use.

Natural language processing

Natural language processing (NLP) is the term used to describe a field of computer science that covers developing computer systems to understand text and speech in a comparable way to a human. This is a branch of artificial intelligence (AI), and I will get into some more detail about that later. This enables tools like Google Translate or the digital assistants Siri or Alexa to work. This is the field from which any tools (or indeed our competitors!) will come that will be able to improve how conscious the language in a text is.

Just to simplify things (slightly) I am going to ignore speech and all the computational issues that speech recognition brings. Let us concentrate on text and look at how machines are taught to understand that and make decisions about how to respond to it. To date, a lot of the NLP development has focused more on teaching a machine to respond to some text, whereas what we are trying to think about is how a machine would understand and amend a text. Microsoft and Grammarly both use AI to help improve their editing tools, so you can be sure there are other tech companies experimenting with this.

While language is to a degree rule based, it is also full of subtleties and ambiguities. The rules allow tools like PerfectIt to work – we can describe and recognise patterns and so teach a machine to do this too. This only takes us so far, as NLP then needs to pick the text apart to find the meaning within it. It must undertake a range of tasks on the text to enable the computer to ‘understand’ it. These include:

  • Speech or grammatical tagging, where the computer figures out the role of each word. This would be where it would identify ‘make’ being used as a verb (make a jacket) rather than a noun (the make of jacket).
  • Recognising names, so it can identify a proper noun. It knows Lesley is likely to be someone’s name rather than a thing, so ‘picking Lesley up on the way’ can be interpreted in the right sense.
  • Resolving co-references, where it relates a pronoun to a previously named object, so it recognises that ‘she’ is ‘Kathy’ from a previous sentence. This task can also be involved with dealing with metaphors or idioms – recognising that someone who is cold may not want an extra jumper but might not be much fun to talk to.
  • Sentiment analysis, which is also known as opinion mining. Here the computer is attempting to recognise more hidden aspects of the text, such as whether the tone is positive or negative.

All of these, and other functions we would need in order to make judgements about how conscious the language used in a text is, do not lend themselves to rules. Rather, they rely on a knowledge of context and conventions. Acceptable language in a novel set in 1960s Alabama would be quite different from that used in a modern social sciences paper about the same city and its inhabitants, but understanding the context will frame and shape language choices.

How machines learn

So, we have realised we are not going to be able to fix this one with a clever macro. What sort of computation do we need? Step forward AI – a term that covers a number of fields that involve machines that mimic human intelligence. One of the main aspects of this that NLP uses is machine learning, a field of computing covering machines that learn a task or tasks through different approaches.

One of the best-known AI companies is Google’s DeepMind division. They have made a name for themselves by approaching AI from the perspective of learning to play games using machine learning. To understand how they have progressed in the field we need a bit of a history lesson.

In 1997 an IBM project called Deep Blue beat the then World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov. What Deep Blue did was to search all possible moves in the game and then pick the best next move. What is different about DeepMind’s AlphaGo is that they had to follow a different approach, as the game of Go has so many more possible moves than chess. This version of AlphaGo used neural networks (a brain-like arrangement of computing elements with lots of connections between each element) to compare the best move from the current position and the likelihood of winning from that move, which gave a more efficient way of narrowing down the choice of moves. AlphaGo was trained by playing vast numbers of games of Go to improve its ability to select moves and predict its current chance of winning. Eventually, in 2016, it beat Lee Sedol, widely regarded as one of the best players of all time.

DeepMind have since developed AlphaGo further and, instead of playing against experienced players, it learns from scratch by playing against itself. It uses a technique called reinforcement learning, where the system tries to optimise a reward called a Q-value. It has been able to play and master various video games from scratch (the Atari benchmark). Here AlphaGo tries to gain positive awards (and avoid negative ones) by, for example, collecting a game’s currency or surviving for a certain amount of time. It can then use the information about what it did and what reward it received to alter its strategy and see if that improves the Q-value.

Why is this important? It shows a progression from a very controlled environment with a limited (although large) number of variables, to a more complex one (Go) and then to a more generalised one (more varied games). We are still not at the point where this could be applied to a problem (like our language one) with very few constraints, but this certainly shows a progression. The latest version, AlphaZero, has apparently taught itself chess from scratch to a world champion level in 24 hours.

This technique of using neural networks and reinforcement learning seems to me to offer the potential to create tools with a more subtle understanding of learning. One issue that can cause problems is that AI often uses huge datasets to train the systems, but using already acquired data can bring with it historical problems. Microsoft created an AI chatbot for Twitter called Tay, designed to mimic the speech patterns of a 19-year-old girl, which it did very well right up to the point it learned to be inflammatory and offensive and had to be shut down. Microsoft believe that the trolling the bot experienced taught it how to be offensive. Similarly, Amazon developed an AI system to shortlist job candidates, and this showed a distinct bias against women. Amazon tracked the problem down to an underlying bias in the training data.

Given the increasing pressure on social media companies to filter offensive content, platforms like YouTube and Facebook are undoubtedly trying to use AI to recognise problematic language, and some of this may lead to tools we can use to highlight issues. However, as editors and proofreaders we are looking to improve poor language choices and make it more conscious. Looking at how the Editor function in MS Word and Grammarly have developed, they certainly point to a way forward. While I am not convinced a machine is going to take my job for some time, I can certainly see where it could make progress. I think the challenge of issues like conscious language is that they have too many subtleties, and the human ability to make judgements about these, and even to have a productive discussion with an author about a passage, means a human editor will continue to be able to add something a machine cannot to a piece of writing, for the foreseeable future.

About Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson is a reformed engineer and primary teacher, and a Professional Member of CIEP. He is a copyeditor and proofreader specialising In STEM subjects and odd formats like LaTeX.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: chess by Bru-nO on Pixabay, robot by mohamed_hassan on Pixabay, Go by Elena Popova on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Making friends with macros

In this post, Ben Dare tries to persuade you that macros can be your allies and aren’t too mysterious really. Ben starting using macros very soon after becoming a CIEP member and finding out about them for the first time; he hasn’t looked back.

Macros: More familiar than you may think

A macro is a way of giving Word a job to do, to make it easier for yourself.

We all do this anyway: take a simple yet essential job like starting a new line.

There, done.

I could have used tabs to move the cursor to the next line, or even spaces! But I have little doubt that all readers of this blog know that Enter tells Word to do the job quickly. Time and faff saved.

Now, inserting a new line with Enter is not called a macro – it’s an inbuilt Word function. But in many ways, a macro is just the same, only it’s a job that’s not inbuilt. You get to choose it.

Let’s say a project has inconsistent quote marks, and we need to change the single quote marks to double. Given the possibility of quotes within quotes, and the other uses of the closing single quote mark (apostrophe), using a global change here is asking for trouble. For argument’s sake, we’ll also assume there are other things we’re looking for as we scan through the document, so we aren’t keen to do endless rounds of item-by-item find and replace. It’s going to be done as we read.

So each time we spot one, we:

  • place the cursor on the mark
  • delete it
  • type in the new mark
  • go to the second mark in the pair
  • delete it
  • type in the new mark.

That’s a fair amount of clicking and tapping. Instead we could try a macro: PunctuationToDoubleQuote (to use this or any macro, you need to add it to Word and likely give it a shortcut – and we’ll cover those steps below). Now all we need to do is:

  • make sure the cursor is somewhere before the first quote mark
  • run the macro (by typing the keyboard shortcut you’ve assigned to the macro, like Ctrl+Alt+2)
  • run it again for the second quote mark in the pair.

Every time you run the macro, the next quote mark after your cursor will automatically change from a single to a double quote mark. That’s an example of a macro that makes one change a bit easier, and there’s a macro to do it the other way round too (PunctuationToSingleQuote).

Note: this post was created using Word 2016/Windows 10. Users with other set-ups may have slight differences. Notably, Mac users will want to use ⌘ and Option instead of Ctrl and Alt. Most of the macros here work the same, but for the exceptions there is usually a Mac version available. You can often find them by reading the entry in Paul Beverley’s book, starting with the final paragraph of the general introduction.

A tool for (almost) every occasion

There are other jobs very familiar to you, which take a few clicks/taps or more, that a macro can help do quickly and accurately:

… and so many more. They are all simple jobs, but take a little bit of clicking/tapping. A macro can do it with one keystroke.

Then there are jobs that you simply might not easily be able to do without a macro or other specialist software:

  • ask Word what a particular character is, and what’s the code to reproduce/search for it (WhatChar)
  • analyse a document for inconsistencies in general approaches to numbers, spelling, language, abbreviations and more (DocAlyse)
  • get a table of hyphenations, showing possible inconsistencies (HyphenAlyse)
  • find capitalised words that are spelled slightly differently, to help check whether one of the spellings is wrong (ProperNounAlyse).

These macros don’t edit your document, but provide information about it. This helps you make consistent choices from the beginning.

There are tons of macros available but don’t be put off by the choice. Try one. And when using one becomes natural, another can easily be added, and another – the time saved adds up.

How to get one and use it

A beginner will likely get macros in two main ways:

1. Use one someone else has made

A great place to start with this is CIEP member Paul Beverley’s huge, free repository that he introduces here: http://www.archivepub.co.uk/book.html. The introductory pages and ‘Favourite tools’ might help you know how to find what you’re looking for, and instructions are included. In this blog I’ve used macros from this repository.

But internet searches are also your friend. There are other macros out there to be found, although you may need to pay for some.

Once you’ve found one, it’s time to add it to Word and give it a shortcut. Let’s add PunctuationToDoubleQuote:

  • go to https://www.wordmacrotools.com/macros/P/PunctuationToDoubleQuote.txt
  • select the whole text – a macro always needs its ‘Sub’ top line and its final ‘End Sub’ – and Ctrl+C (or copy it)
  • in Word, either press Alt+F8 or go to the View tab and click the Macros button to bring up the Macros menu window
  • in ‘Macro name:’ type in ‘temp’ (as because you’re using a ready-made macro, you’ll be changing this)
  • click ‘Create’
  • you’re now in the macro library
  • select the as-yet empty ‘temp’ macro, from the first ‘Sub’ to ‘End Sub’
  • Ctrl+V to paste in the full copied macro
  • Ctrl+S to save and Alt+Q to close (or use the file menu).

Now that macro is added to your Word, and you don’t need to do that again. Time to give it a shortcut, to make it easy to use (you can always use Alt+F8 and run a macro that way, but it’s not the quickest):

  • right-click on some empty space in the top menu ribbon
  • click ‘Customize the Ribbon’ to get this option window:
    (Tip: You can add any macro to a ribbon tab by choosing ‘Macros’ in the ‘Choose commands from:’ box and then using the ‘Add >>’ button. But I’ll stick to keyboard shortcuts in this post.)
  • to give a macro a keyboard shortcut, click on ‘Customize’ at the bottom, next to ‘Keyboard shortcuts:’
  • in this new window, navigate down the ‘Categories:’ list to ‘Macros’ – it’s near the bottom
  • choose your macro in the list (it’s now got its full name)
  • click in the shortcut box and type in your shortcut; I’ve chosen Ctrl+Alt+2 as ‘2’ is the key with the double quote on it (UK keyboard)
  • check for Word telling you that’s already in use. You can see my shortcut is already assigned, but I don’t use that one, so happy to override. You can choose another if preferred
  • click ‘Assign’
  • click ‘Close’.

That’s the keyboard shortcut set. Time to open up a test document with some single quotes, and test away!

Tip: to save time in future, the next macro you install could be CustomKeys, to quickly bring up the keystroke customising box!

2. Record them yourself

This may feel scarier than downloading a readymade macro, but the beautiful thing about recording them is that they are tailored exactly to the job you need. And apart from setting up the recording, you’re only doing things in Word that you already know how to do! For instance, I once had to delete a number at the start of certain paragraphs, add ‘PPP’ and a tab instead, and apply a paragraph style. Again a few clicks, and monotonous to repeat. To set up a macro to avoid this repetition, I:

  • placed the cursor before the number
  • clicked the View tab
  • clicked the dropdown menu under Macros
  • clicked ‘Record Macro’
  • gave it a name (‘PPP’)
  • clicked the ‘Keyboard’ icon to give it a shortcut (‘Alt+1’ is convenient for me), then ‘Assign’ and ‘Close’.

From this point onwards, Word was recording every single thing that I did in the program. The only thing it can’t record is using the mouse to move the cursor or select text – make sure to place the cursor where you want it before recording, and to use the arrow keys to move around or select text. So to make my macro, I simply carried out the steps I wanted Word to record and repeat when I next ran this macro:

  • pressed Ctrl + Shift + Right Arrow to select the whole number and following space
  • pressed Delete to delete the selection
  • typed ‘PPP’, then pressed Tab
  • clicked on the appropriate paragraph style button.

Now that I’d completed every task I wanted in the macro, I clicked the square ‘Stop recording’ button on Word’s bottom bar (or back in the Macro dropdown menu in the View tab).

Then, for every other instance where I needed to make this change, I simply:

  • placed the cursor before the number
  • pressed Alt+1.

I’d never find that macro online – who else would need it? But for a job that needs repeating many times, it saves many clicks and taps, and time. Give it a go!

Tip: for other hints and tips on recording and using macros, members should check out the CIEP’s fact sheet Getting started with macros.

You’re not alone

If you’re part of the CIEP’s forums, there’s a community ready on a macro-specific forum to help each other to find, use and improve macros. One person has a problem, others help find a solution, everyone benefits. And we’re a friendly bunch to boot.

About Ben Dare

Ben Dare is a Professional Member of the CIEP and copyedits/proofreads for projects on sustainable food systems and sustainable living (and almost anything else when asked nicely). Otherwise, he’s probably playing with Lego or Gravitrax, cooking, running, swimming or (regrettably) doing chores.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: leaf by MabelAmber, wooden letters by blickpixel, both on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Talking tech: Find and Replace

In this latest Talking tech post, Andy Coulson looks at how Find and Replace can speed up editing and styling references.

In keeping with this month’s theme of references for The Edit, I’m going to take a look at how we can use one of Word’s most powerful in-built tools – wildcard Find and Replace. References have to conform to tight formatting rules, and these lend themselves to using wildcard Find and Replace to tidy them up. This is particularly handy if you have a paper that was written with one form of referencing that needs to be changed to a different one. I’ll give a brief introduction to wildcards, then share some examples that focus on the type of issues in references and finally I’ll take a quick look at using these with Paul Beverley’s FRedit macro and PerfectIt.

Before we get cracking, a word of warning. Many academic authors use reference management software like Mendeley to produce reference lists. This software manages the references outside of Word and links to the Word document. With Mendeley you see references as form fields in the document. If you make changes, the next time the document is opened with a connection to Mendeley the reference list and links are overwritten, losing your edits. If you think this is the case, make sure you clarify how your client wants references edited.

Find and Replace can also be a blunt instrument, so use it with care. While you are refining your search, work on a copy of your text. And don’t use ‘Replace All’ unless you are very clear what you are replacing. It is safer to step through the things being found by using the ‘Replace’ or ‘Find Next’ (if you want to leave something unchanged) buttons.

Wildcards

Word’s Find and Replace feature has a number of hidden extras. If you’ve not already found these, they can be revealed by clicking the ‘More’ button under the ‘Replace with:’ field.

This opens the menu shown below and, as we are going to look at wildcards, we need to check the ‘Use wildcards’ option.

So, what is a wildcard? It is simply a character that can be used to represent anything else. A very simple example is using the character ‘?’ in a wildcard search. If you have ‘Use wildcards’ selected, put ‘r?n’ in the ‘Find what:’ field and ‘ran’ in the ‘Replace with:’ field then press ‘Replace All’, you would replace all instances of ‘ron’, ‘run’, ‘ren’, etc with ‘ran’. The ‘?’ tells Word to find any letter, so it looks for the pattern ‘r’ followed by any letter, followed by ‘n’. This does require a little thought, because what you have now also done, potentially, is turn ‘iron’ into ‘iran’, and a ‘wren’ would become a ‘wran’.

Now that example should alert you to the problems with this, but this is a very simplistic example and to do something more useful we need to dive deeper. Wildcards allow you to specify more complex patterns in the text, and as we will see in the examples below we can do some quite complex searches, often with a little trickery.

As this is a (relatively) short article I’m not going to be able to go into all of the possibilities. The best way to learn how to use these is to experiment. If you want some help, there are a number of resources available:

Examples

Let’s have a look at a couple of reference-related examples in detail so we can see how these work. For the referencing gurus out there, I am going to omit some required information from the references for clarity and play a bit fast and loose with referencing styles.

Example 1: Initials in names

Different referencing systems use different conventions for citing authors’ names in the reference list. So, you may have Hartley, J.R. (APA style), Hartley JR (Vancouver style) or even J.R. Hartley. Usually a reference list will be (largely) consistent, so it has a pattern we can find and a pattern we can replace it with. We will start with these three references:

A.N. Author. (1986). Writing for beginners (2nd ed.). Jones Books

S. Editor. (2021). Editing for fun and profit (1st ed.). MyPub Ltd

I.S.B. Nash. (2007). Cataloguing books (3rd ed.). Big Books Inc.

With Find and Replace we need to break problems down into manageable chunks, and sometimes multiple searches, that can be implemented by Find and Replace. Let’s assume we need to change author-name style in the list to Vancouver. The first issue we can tackle is the structure of the author names – setting them after the surname.

To do this we use the ‘Find what:’ string¹

^013([A-Z.]@) ([A-z]@).

What this does is:

  1. Looks for a line break: ^013 (‘^’ tells Word the number following is a character code. Note that these are for Windows and may be different on a Mac. You can find a list of these in the Wildcard Cookbook and macro book mentioned above).
  2. Looks for one or more initials: ([A-Z.]@) – the round brackets are grouping together and are important when we come to replace things; the [A-Z.] looks for capital letters or a full stop and the @ tells Word to look for one or more occurrences of these. Note that there is a space after this term, like in the text.
  3. Now looks for a capitalised word: ([A-z]@) – a combination of upper- and lower-case letters.

Now we replace the surname first and the initials after using this ‘Replace with:’ string:

^p\2 \1

This replaces the text as follows:

  1. We put the line break back in: ^p – note that we are using a different code here. ‘Why?’ you may ask. Because Word …
  2. Next we put the surname in: \2 – the \2 tells Word to use the second item in round brackets, what we found with item 3 above.
  3. Finally, we add the initials back in after a space – \1 – using the first bracketed item we found in item 2 above.

This leaves us with:

Author A.N. (1986). Writing for beginners (2nd ed.). Jones Books

Editor S. (2021). Editing for fun and profit (1st ed.). MyPub Ltd

Nash I.S.B. (2007). Cataloguing books (3rd ed.). Big Books Inc.

Now we need to remove the extra full points. We have to do that in two steps, by taking out all the relevant full points and then adding back the one after the final name.

So, removing the full points we use this ‘Find what:’ string, which simply finds one capital letter followed by one full point.

([A-Z]).

We then put the capital letter back in using this ‘Replace with:’ string:

\1

This gives us:

Author AN (1986). Writing for beginners (2nd ed.). Jones Books

Editor S (2021). Editing for fun and profit (1st ed.). MyPub Ltd

Nash ISB (2007). Cataloguing books (3rd ed.). Big Books Inc.

Now we add the final full point back in before the bracket with the year. That bracket gives us a pattern we can identify to put the full point in the right place. So, we use the ‘Find what:’ string:

([A-Z]) \(

As before, the round brackets contain a string to find one capital letter; this is followed by a space and finally by \(. ‘What is that?’ you may ask. Well, we use brackets to create a sequence in the search string that we can return to later, so in wildcard searches round brackets (and a number of other symbols) work as commands. In order to refer to those symbols we need to escape it, which means adding a backslash in front, so \( finds an opening round bracket. We can then use the following ‘Replace with:’ string to add the full point.

\1. ^40

As before \1. adds the initial back with the full point and ^40 puts an open bracket back. Again, note the different way that replace refers to the character, but that’s just the way it works I’m afraid. This then gives us:

Author AN. (1986). Writing for beginners (2nd ed.). Jones Books

Editor S. (2021). Editing for fun and profit (1st ed.). MyPub Ltd

Nash ISB. (2007). Cataloguing books (3rd ed.). Big Books Inc.

Example 2: Adding styling

I realise this is not proper Vancouver referencing, but I want to show you how we can add styling using wildcards. In this example we will apply italics to the book titles. As before, we need a pattern to recognise which part is the book title. In this case we have the end of the year ‘). ’ and the start of the edition ‘ (’. However, in order to find the title we have to find more text, the two brackets before and after, which we don’t want in italics. This means we need to be a bit cunning!

To do this we use this ‘Find what:’ string:

(\). )([A-z .]@)(\([0-9])

  1. (\). ) finds a closing bracket \), followed by a period and a space and we want to keep those, so we group them.
  2. ([A-z .]@) looks for a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, spaces and full stops – our surname and initials.
  3. (\([0-9]) looks for an open bracket \( plus a number – the characters at the start of the edition.

If we then replace this with:

\1%%\2%%\3

we put %% before and after the characters of the title that we want to italicise:

Author AN. (1986). %%Writing for beginners %%(2nd ed.). Jones Books

Editor S. (2021). %%Editing for fun and profit %%(1st ed.). MyPub Ltd

Nash ISB. (2007). %%Cataloguing books %%(3rd ed.). Big Books Inc.

We now have the title clearly marked, so can then style that. We search for the modified title with %% before and after.

%%([A-z .]@)%%

We then replace that with just the title text, which we have put in round brackets, so \1 goes in the ‘Replace what:’ field. Before we replace this, we need to tell Word to italicise this text. If you tap on the ‘More’ button in the bottom left you will see a ‘Format’ button. Pressing on this pops up the menu shown below. If you select ‘Font’ the font dialogue box pops up and you can select ‘Italic’. You will also see ‘Font: Italic’ appears under the ‘Replace with:’ field.

Running that Find and Replace gives us our final list:

Author AN. (1986). Writing for beginners (2nd ed.). Jones Books

Editor S. (2021). Editing for fun and profit (1st ed.). MyPub Ltd

Nash ISB. (2007). Cataloguing books (3rd ed.). Big Books Inc.

Integrating with Macros and PerfectIt

Wildcard Find and Replace searches like this are real timesavers, but there’s no obvious way of saving these and using them again and again. There is a short history for both the ‘Find what:’ and ‘Replace with:’ fields if you click the down arrow at the right of each, but I don’t find this particularly helpful.

Both Paul Beverley’s FRedit macro and PerfectIt support using wildcards, so offer a way to reuse multiple Find and Replace searches. As the point of using things like macros and wildcards is to save you time sometimes the investment of time to set up those searches in a macro or PerfectIt may not add up compared to just running the searches. For example, I do some work on papers for academic journals that are about 6,000 words long. I get material for multiple different journals, so it is quicker for me to just use a few Find and Replace searches rather than setting up, say, FRedit. However, a book or multiple papers for the same journal would change that, and setting up FRedit or PerfectIt would then be worthwhile. Having said that, writing this has convinced me to create a file of Find and Replace searches I can refer back to. I will probably format this as a FRedit list so I can use these with that macro.

PerfectIt allows you to perform wildcard searches in the ‘Wildcard’ tab. This lets you use all the features of wildcards in Word Find and Replace and adds a couple of neat features. The first of these is that you can add an instruction or prompt that explains what the search is doing, because, as we saw above, patterns can crop up in unexpected places. The second of these is that you can add exceptions. PerfectIt’s manual page uses the example of apostrophes being added to numbers followed by ‘s’, so ‘we have 3s, 4s and 5s chosen’ is correct. However, if we talk about ‘Page 4’s content’ we need the apostrophe. We can make numbers after the word ‘Page’ an exception.

FRedit is a scripted version of Find and Replace, so runs multiple Find and Replace searches from a list. It uses all the forms in Word Find and Replace, but has a few little tweaks you need to use in the file of searches we set up. FRedit doesn’t present us with the dialogue boxes that Word Find and Replace does. So in the file we use ‘|’ to separate the ‘Find what:’ and ‘Replace with:’ terms on a line and add ‘~’ at the start of the line if we are using wildcards. We can also add formatting easily. I sometimes use FRedit to quickly highlight things so I can then take my time on a read-through to check the context. For example, if you have an app called Balance it needs capitalising, but if you also talk about keeping your balance it doesn’t, so you have a mix, but the context will determine which you use.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas and encouraged you to go and experiment. I can honestly say learning how to use wildcards and Find and Replace efficiently has helped speed up my editing enormously. Combining these with FRedit or PerfectIt speeds things up even more where you have longer pieces or house styles you use regularly.


1 Paul Beverley has flagged that while ‘[A-z]@’ will find any letter it does not pick up on accented letters. A better solution is ‘[A-Za-z]@’.

About Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson is a reformed engineer and primary teacher, and a Professional Member of CIEP. He is a copyeditor and proofreader specialising In STEM subjects and odd formats like LaTeX.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

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Photo credits: magnifying glass by towfiqu barbhuiya on Canva, joker by Roy_Inove on Pixabay.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.