3 Automated Self-Editing Tools Every Writer Should Know
The simple truth is that every writer needs a copyeditor. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things you can do to improve your manuscript before you hire an editor. Here are three automated self-editing tools that will save you time and effort.
When I copyedit any document, I automate as many processes as possible. If you’re working in Microsoft Word, automation is as easy as having a few tricks up your sleeve. If you share this with your writer friends, they’ll love you for it.
One of my favorite tools is the Auto Replace function in Word. Technically, you do this while writing, but it can save you a lot of effort once you get to the editing stage, so I’m including it here. You have to access it from the back end of Word, but it’s worth the effort.
Let’s say you’re writing about marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk. Personally, I wouldn’t want to spell his last name out a hundred times, especially since it would be easy to make a mistake. Why not let Word do the work for you? Here’s how it works.
1. Click the File tab, which takes you to Word’s Backstage. Choose Options – the last item on the menu.
2. Select the Proofing Tab then AutoCorrect Options from the top of the menu.
3. In the Replace Text as You Type section, choose an easy to remember shortcut for Vaynerchuk – I chose his initials, ‘gv’. Then type his full name into the next box.
4. Click Add and Okay until you get back to your document.
Now, any time you type ‘gv’, Word automatically replaces it with ‘Vaynerchuk’.
This tool saves me a lot of time and means I don’t have to carefully check the spelling of words or names I frequently use. Self-editing becomes just a little bit easier.
Find and Replace
This is one of the first tools I use when I begin a new editing project. Find and replace saves me hours of work. Maybe you’ve used the word ‘indigenous’ throughout your document. Later, you decide to follow emerging guidelines to capitalize the word. You could painstakingly comb through your manuscript, or you could let Word do the work for you.
1. The shortcut to access Find and Replace is the F5 key. Choose the Replace tab. In the Find What box, type ‘indigenous’. In the Replace With box, type ‘Indigenous’.
2. Next, click the More button and a new menu comes up – these filters help you refine your search. Turn on Match Case and Find Whole Words only.
3. Click Replace All – within a few seconds Word finished what could take you hours and gives you a report on how many times the original word was replaced.
This tool can be used for many common problems such as double spaces at the end of sentences, especially if you use the wildcard filter.
A quick analysis of your document can give you many insights into what you should focus on when editing. Word’s spell and grammar check can do much more than simply point out possible errors. I use it to get an idea of the readability level of the writing.
The readability level you want to achieve is highly dependent on your audience. Website content and blog posts should generally be written at a grade 7 or 8 reading level. When I edited technical manuals for trades students, they were written at a grade 10 reading level, whereas senior level academic texts will have a much higher readability grade. Word’s Readability Statistics gives you a reading level based on the Flesch-Kincaid scale.
1. To begin, make sure you’ve told Word that you want readability statistics. Click the File tab, select Options (from the bottom of the menu) and go to Proofing. Check the readability statistics box. Click OK and return to your document. Once you’ve turned the statistics on, you won’t need to repeat this step in future documents.
2. To access the statistics, run a Spelling and Grammar check on your document. Go through all of Word’s suggestions and decide which to implement and which to ignore. Once Word has gone through your document, it provides your Readability Statistics.
I use this information to decide whether I should rewrite for readability. For example, if the summary showed a reading level of grade 9, I would reduce the number of sentences per paragraph and the words per sentence because it’s a blog post. Long, complex sentences are not scannable so don’t make good blog copy, whereas too many short paragraphs and sentences can be difficult to read in a non-fiction book. This data gives me important insights into whether or not I need to restructure my sentences and paragraphs.
These self-editing tools can save you a lot of time and frustration. If you learn to automate as much editing as possible, you’ll find self-editing a much easier process.
What are your favorite self-editing tools? Please share them in the comments so we can all learn from your experience.