As a medical and scientific editor, I use different editing add-ins and programs for Microsoft Word that do a lot of the editing grunt work. I use these tools to clean up and prepare a paper before editing, to simplify and quicken the process while editing, and to verify that everything is consistent after editing. They are all real time savers—I never want to go back to editing on paper!
I use a number of different add-ins and programs for Microsoft Word on PC. I don’t know if these are available for other word processors (are there others?) or if they are also available for Mac. Note that I am using Word 2010 and that these may not be available for earlier versions of Word. I have included current prices for them, but many do offer a free trial. Here is a list of the ones I use in the typical order that I use them.
FileCleaner for Microsoft Word by The Editorium (US $29.95)
Some papers arrive as a bit of a visual mess with multiple fonts and font sizes, weird spacing, and unusual punctuation styles. With these papers, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. Before I even start editing a paper (except those preformatted by the journal), I clean it up with FileCleaner. I use it to strip all of the formatting, get rid of all of those pesky double spaces after periods, and any multiple returns or unnecessary tabs. It can also automatically put punctuation within quotation marks, change hyphens between numbers to en dashes, and even change a capital O used as number to zero. It can do this for a single active document, all open documents, or even a whole directory at one time. After running FileCleaner, I can change the paper to a consistent font and a comfortable font size and it is ready for editing.
FRedit by Paul Beverley (Free!)
This one is a bit more complex to use because it uses macros (an alien language to me), but it is very powerful once you get the hang of it. FRedit is a scripted global find-and-replace macro. You write in a Word file a list of words to find with their replacements. FRedit then uses this script to search an open document for these words and then replaces them with the words that you indicated (don’t forget to turn on Track Changes beforehand!). This is a very simplified description of what it can do. The power is that you can have multiple scripts with multiple find and replaces within each script. For example, one script that I use for an American journal changes spelling from UK to US (and I can keep adding words to the list), changes numbers to numerals, removes hyphens from prefixes (as per AMA style), changes certain words to preferred spellings, and italicizes statistical terms, such as P, F, r, and d. I have another script that I run without Track Changes on that highlights tricky words and phrases that are commonly misused. I don’t even scratch the surface of what FRedit is capable of doing, but it already saves me so much time. Paul has always been helpful when I have had questions or problems. He also has a free 600-page book, Macros for Writers and Editors. And you can’t beat the price (he does suggest a £10 donation to charity)!
EditTools by wordsnSync (US $69.00)
This add-in has many functions, but what I use it for is its Insert Query function. Like you, I have standard queries or comments that I use all the time. With Insert Query, I don’t have to write these out over and over again. I can insert them with just a click of a button. The Insert Query function allows me to organize the queries by journal or topic (e.g., “statistics queries”). Under each of these tabs, I have saved the queries that I use most often or ones that are quite lengthy. The queries can be inserted inline or as a comment, whatever you prefer. EditTools offers many more functions (Wildcard Find and Replace, Language Conversion, Page Number Format, etc.), but I do not use them so I cannot comment on them. The Insert Query function alone is worth the price for me.
Stedman’s Medical/Pharmaceutical Spellchecker by Wolters Kluwer Health (US $99.95)
Stedman’s Medical Dictionary is a must for any medical writer or editor. The Stedman’s Spellchecker is a software program that integrates with the existing spellchecker within Word to automatically spellcheck all medical words. Do you really want to look up words like myringostapediopexy every time? Stedman’s Spellchecker runs automatically (you don’t have to run a separate application) and it contains nearly 500,000 medical, pharmaceutical, and bioscience terms as well as medical equipment, surgical procedures, diagnostic tests. The new 2014 version includes a universal spellchecker that will spellcheck across your entire desktop. The software comes on CD-ROM that you install onto your computer.
Editor’s ToolKit by The Editorium (US $29.95)
Editor’s ToolKit includes a lot of macros with many of the most frequently accessed functions assigned to the function keys on the keyboard. By hitting a F1–F12 key with or without shift, control, or control+shift, I now have 48 tools easily accessible through my function keys. They provide a template that you can print out, which I laminated (of course!) and taped onto my keyboard above the function keys so I can reference it easily. I use these all the time. The F9 key will cap all selected words; F10 makes them lowercase. And you have 46 other functions, including open, close, small caps, insert em dash, and so on. Many people write their own macros for many of these, but what I like about this is that they are all assigned to the function keys (I am guaranteed to forget a macro 5 minutes later) and the template is an easy reminder that does not take up a lot of real estate on your desk. You can purchase Editor’s ToolKit Plus which also includes FileCleaner (and QuarkConverter and NoteStripper) for US $69.95—a savings of $50.00 if you bought all separately.
Tabs for Word by ExtendOffice (US $15.00)
This add-in is not specifically for editing, but it is extremely useful. It adds a tab bar to Word that displays all open documents so that you can quickly jump back and forth between the journal article you are editing and the journal style guide all within a single window without having to close and open different windows. A simple but handy tool.
PerfectIt by Intelligent Editing (US $59.00)
There are different ways to use PerfectIt. I know some editors like to use it before editing as a sort of first pass. Personally, I use it as the very last step in the copy editing process. The copy editor’s mantra is consistency, consistency, consistency. PerfectIt is genius because it finds inconsistent spelling, hyphenation, and capitalization throughout the paper. It has many other functions, including generating a table of abbreviations that are used within the paper. After a final edit, it can also search for comments or edits that have accidentally been left in the paper. And it is completely customizable. I have different style sheets for every journal as well as other general ones for Canadian or American spelling.
There you have it—my little army working behind the scenes. Could you just run these programs and add-ins and hand the paper back to your author? Absolutely not! These tools can make your job easier, not make it disappear altogether. A computer program can’t replace a good editor because the computer can never understand the author’s intention or meaning. My job is safe for another day.
Is there an add-in or program that you use while editing that you can’t live without? Let us know about it.
Happy Adventures in Editing!
I am freelance copy editor, proofreader, and instructor based in Toronto. Enjoy my adventures in editing! (Note: I transferred my blog over and lost my comments along the way, unfortunately. Please add new ones.)