How to Use Macros to Achieve Consistency


Photo by Vlado Paunovic:

Here’s a post for my fellow editing colleagues out there!

Originally, I’d planned for this to be a LinkedIn post, but it got a tad too long. Blog post it is!

There may be times when you need to check consistency as you move along the document, without using large-scale analysis tools like PerfectIt or ‘-alyse’ macros before you start – perhaps you work on shorter documents, or your workplace doesn’t have PerfectIt installed, or for some other reason. Here’s my process! (The macros are from Paul Beverley’s website, Archivepub.)

The macros

Enter the macros (in the order I use them, description, and my shortcuts):

BookmarkTempAdd – sets an invisible bookmark at your cursor (the *mouse-wheel’s click ‘key’).

InstantFindDown – finds the next occurrence of the selected word (ctrl + alt + down arrow).

PrepareToReplaceFromTop – jumps to the top of the document and brings up the Find and Replace dialog box (ctrl + alt + shift + H).

FindFwd – finds the next occurrence of whatever was searched for last. This doesn’t require a word to be selected (the wheel on my mouse can toggle left and right, and I use these for FindBack/Fwd; alt + right arrow otherwise).

FindReplaceStay – replaces selected word with what’s in the Replace box, even while the box is closed, and keeps the cursor in place after the change (ctrl + alt + right arrow).

BookmarkTempFind – moves cursor back to the bookmark (ctrl + alt + /).

BookmarkTempClear – clears all bookmarks (ctrl + alt + shift + / (so, a ‘?’)).

*To bind macros to your mouse, you require a mouse with macro software such as the Logitech G502. I absolutely love this mouse. It has 11 programmable buttons – super useful to map macros and other functions to. Feel free to get in touch if you need help with this!

The process

1. I come across a word that I know has several acceptable spelling variations or hyphenation rules. I place a bookmark to keep my place.

2. I then change the suspect word to one of its other spellings or close up the word if its hyphenated or vice versa, select the word (with shift + ctrl + back arrow), and run InstantFindDown.

3. If the cursor stays in place, then the variant doesn’t exist in the doc, meaning I can try the same for another variant (if it has more than one).

4. If the cursor did jump down, we know inconsistency is afoot! I then run searches of each variant to ascertain majority usage (if they’re roughly even, I check the majority usage of similar words (like how a ‘post-something’ word compares to a ‘pre-something’ word). Through whatever means, a decision gets made.

5. I then run PrepareToReplaceFromTop. I only replace one instance using the dialog box to have it memorised by Word, then I close the box.

6. I’ll run FindFwd to jump to the next instance, check if the replacement is needed, then run FindReplaceStay if it does, FindFwd if not. A change may not be needed, thanks to those words that can act as a noun, phrasal verb, or a prepositional phrase (backup/back up, in to/into). Editors know better than to use Replace All mindlessly. Rinse and repeat.

Once the cursor stops, I’m done. I then hit BookmarkTempFind to jump me back to my original position, then clear it with BookmarkTempClear.

Why I like this process

Some reasons I like these macros are completely obvious: adding bookmarks and returning to them with shortcut keys is way more efficient than, say, typing some irregular string of words/symbols so you can run a search for them after, or searching for the page number. But other merits of this method will need explaining.

If you need to make a different change to what’s been stored in the ‘Replace’ box, using FindFwd and FindReplaceStay lets you make changes directly, as opposed to clicking outside of the box to make your change, then going back to clicking ‘find next’ – not a huge time saver, but it lets your fingers stay at the keyboard rather than fussing with moving the mouse and adding extra clicks. These tiny moments of extra movements and clicks stack up throughout hours of work. That’s why macros that assist with those tiny, repetitive actions make a difference!

These also make my office-based proofreading work easier, too. I spend most of my posts talking about fiction, but the medicolegal reports I proofread are typically full to the brim with dated events that are recurringly referred to. InstantFindBack and FindBack are invaluable for quickly confirming that a mention of an event in the summary marries up to when the body of the report says it happened – such and such happened on [date], so I then select the date and run the macro back to its previous mention and see if everything matches up. The same goes for checking costs in the summary tables.

Final thoughts...

While PerfectIt and Paul Beverley’s suite of analysis macros – along with wildcards and other tools – are super useful for pre-editing/proofing consistency checks, there are situations where you may not use them.

This is where macros that let you dart around the text and make changes more efficiently come into their own. Let me know your favourite smaller-scale time-saving macros in the comments! Or get in touch if you want help setting up macro software for your mouse.

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