Editing helpers and why I love them

For years, I’ve worked either using track changes in MS Word manuscripts or editing directly into InDesign or Quark files (remember Quark, anyone?), copyfitting as I went. In fact, most of my inhouse work was in InDesign because the designers would drop in the raw text from the author, leave overmatter on the pasteboard, insert dummy text to fill space or for captions, then l would work on the file. There’s quite a lot of creative licence in editing illustrated books, because of this very fact – you’re often a writer as much as an editor.

But I digress.

Editing manuscripts in Word does let you manipulate the text in other ways, which are perhaps more technical than creative, but still so satisfying. Here are my top 3 editing helpers.

1. Global replace (Command-F)

Yes, I know, this seems a little obvious, but when you’re needing to convert a British English document to US English, and want to enclose all those commas and stops within double quote marks, who you gonna call? Word lets you list all matches in the sidebar, too, which means you can scroll through and find things easily to change. Want to check that all your tables are numbered in order, or that a reference code is always expressed the same way? Go to Command-F.

2. PerfectIt Cloud

PC users have been privy to this little gem for some time, but PerfectIt is now available for Mac users. The Cloud edition (for Macs) doesn’t have the advanced tailoring functions of the PC version … yet … but it’s still a great assistant for consistency checks and adhering to style guides such as Australian Government style, UK spelling or US spelling.

3. TextExpander

An editing colleague recently put me onto this editing and writing aid. Essentially, TextExpander lets you create snippets of perfectly worded text then write shortcut commands for them. It works across most of your programs from Word and Excel to your email and internet browser. Such a time-saver when writing comments in files, or using standard emails.

The point of using all of these tools isn’t to replace the editor (far be it!), but to take some of the grunt work out of the editing process so the editor can focus on what the client is paying them to do: ensure their manuscript reads clearly, crisply and concisely.