Why macros deserve pride of place in your editing toolbox

This year’s CIEP conference was held online, from 2 to 4 November. Attendees from all over the world logged on to learn and socialise with their fellow editors and proofreaders, and a number of delegates kindly volunteered to write up the sessions for us. Christina Petrides reviewed Macro-driven book editing, presented by Paul Beverley.

Paul Beverley at the 2019 SfEP conference.

If you are a macro newbie, as I am, you may have thought that this session wasn’t for you. But any time the Macro King – as introduced by Beth Hamer – holds a session, I find it’s worth listening in.

With the myriad of editing tools that are out there, we begin to dabble in macros as we find our editing feet. Most of us know the power of the macros that Paul has written – DocAlyse and ProperNounAlyse, to name just two. Now if – again, like me – you found those to be a revelation for your editing work, you’re in for a surprise.

Paul’s session was less ‘what to do’ to improve your editing efficiency but more ‘this is what you could be doing in the next two to four years’.

Every stage of editing could be macro-assisted. Macros don’t replace skill and intelligence, but can take over the boring bits, pay better attention than you, and allow you to enjoy editing the text.

The hour-long session was fast-paced and full of information. Paul began by putting macros and their power into perspective. There are currently 794 macros available in his book and 25 hours of tutorials on his YouTube channel. Of those, 16 are dedicated to FRedit, which even has its own manual, demonstrating the power of FRedit alone. From its beginnings in the 1980s, FRedit has been evolving in Paul’s expert hands into what it is today.

So when the Macro King says he wants to inspire us into using more macros to make our lives easier (not put us off), it’s worth hearing him out.

New macro users are told that Paul focuses on three types of macros. They cover analysis, making global changes before you start and making changes as you read – all expertly covered by Karen Cox’s earlier session.

As user experience and understanding grow, so does the ability to use macros effectively. Paul broke them down into an additional ten ways in which they can assist us editors in our work:

  1. instant information gathering (counting things, searching the internet, checking references)
  2. speed navigation (searching, comparing, moving around the text)
  3. list handling
  4. file handling (combining/splitting files, converting a whole folder to PDF, accepting Track Changes)
  5. comment handling (creating comment and query lists)
  6. highlighting and colour handling (adding or removing)
  7. figure and table handling (adjusting/stripping out spacing)
  8. formatting (making and using list styles, changing styles, finding ‘funny’ formatting, copy/paste formatting, formatting equations/lists)
  9. note handling (converting to text, re-embedding, correcting formatting)
  10. reference handling (checking/correcting citations, adjusting format, checking alphabetisation).

Paul then quickly demonstrated many of these macros in action on real files.

If this has got you quaking in your editing boots, take a step back. Pick one or two macros to start with and get comfortable using those. Start with the analysis macros, then add to your macro toolkit as your skill and experience grow.

What seems frightening and insurmountable can soon be second nature, and a whole new world of editing can open up. Take it slowly and you may soon be creating your own macros!

Christina Petrides is an Intermediate Member who recently discovered the power of macros. She turned to editing and writing after a career in environmental consultancy, which she still dabbles in. She focuses on business and academic work, although will work on almost anything non-fiction. Travel is her other great love, and she’s often working on the road and blogging about it.

 


If you’re taking your first tentative steps into using macros, do check out the summary of Karen Cox’s Macros for beginners session.


CIEP members can download a Getting started with macros fact sheet from within their members’ area.


Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

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

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