Most Popular Writing Tech Posts of 2015

Top 10by C.K. MacLeod

Here are the top 10 Posts on Tech Tools for Writers in 2015.

  1. Hemingway Editor: A Proofreading Tool for Writers
  2. Self-Editing Tools
  3. Retrieving a Back-Up File in Scrivener
  4. How to Create a Keyboard Shortcut for the Snipping Tool
  5. 20-Minute Macro Course
  6. Improve Your Writing with Macros
  7. A 5-Minute Guide to Evernote
  8. 5 Ways to Create an Em Dash
  9. Proofreading Tool: PerfectIt Pro
  10. Consistency Checker: A Free Proofreading Tool

Which tool will you try in 2016? Which tool would you like me to write about?

Stay posted for more exciting writing and editing tools in 2016.

Image by Sam Churchill.

Print to Digital: Cleaning Up Your Word File

This week's post is by Carla Douglas from Beyond Paper Editing.

Adapted. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing in August 2014.

If you have a print document that you’d like to self-publish, you can turn it into a digital file and convert it to an ebook.

The first step is to get it into MS Word using OCR software. Note that MS Word is your best friend right now. Editors use Word for a few reasons, and efficient cleanup and editing are high on that list.

Here’s what the file I’m working with looks like as a pdf (produced on a Macintosh Classic and dot matrix printer):

The manuscript has been marked up with pencil, and these marks are picked up by the OCR software, sometimes in unexpected ways. Here’s what the Word file looks like:

Two Kinds of Cleanup

There’s junk in the file—the stuff you can see, and the stuff you can’t. Sometimes, what’s hidden behind the scene in Word is the cause of the junk you can see—things like garbled text and wonky formatting. Also, the pencil marks that haven’t been converted to text remain in the document as pictures, and will have to be deleted. Some random characters appear, too, and the text is all boldface. These are just a few of the things you can see.

To clean up this file, will a spritz of vinegar and water do, or will you need industrial-strength degreaser? The answer depends on what you plan to do with the file next. If you’re going to revise or edit the text, clean it up enough to continue working on it, and save the heavy-duty cleanup for later.

For Initial Cleanup

The story I’m working with here is just over 4,000 words, and it won’t be converted to an ebook any time soon. I’m going to do an initial cleanup using FileCleaner from Jack Lyon’s Editorium. (Wiley Publishing  has a free Word add-in with many similar features.)

FileCleaner is about US$30, but there’s a generous 45-day free trial available. It runs as a Word plug-in. Follow the directions on the site to download and install it. It will appear on the Add-ins pane in your Word ribbon. Here’s what it will do (you can select/unselect features):

Running FileCleaner cleaned up most of the junk in my story file—it’s now in a format I can continue to edit without too many distractions. Here’s what it looks like post-FileCleaner:

As you can see, FileCleaner didn’t catch the text that had been marked up with pencil. After trying a few ways to clean this up—including selecting the text and applying Normal style to it—I ended up having to repair it manually by deleting the picture and re-keying the sentence that’s squished together. Because my document is short, this wasn’t a problem, but in a longer document it could present a significant inconvenience. Here’s a last look at the cleaned-up text:

Other Cleanup Tips

At times, Word can be frustrating to work in—with extra page breaks and hidden formatting, it will do things you don’t want it to. For now, I’ve cleaned my file up well enough to do further editing.

If your Word document is really acting up, there are a few of things to try. I’ve found that the best place to start is by using the show/hide feature on the Word ribbon.  How to Find the Hidden Formatting That Will Mess Up Your Ebook, shows you how.

Image by atomicjeep

Revise Your Writing With Self-Editing Macros

Hide your eyes

by C.K. MacLeod

Macros—tiny programs that run in Microsoft Word— have changed the way I revise my writing. They highlight potential problems, so I can fix them:

NeedlessWords macro in action
NeedlessWords macro in action

Below is a list of my favourite self-editing macros, designed to work with Microsoft Word:

  • Confusables — words that are often used inncorrectly
  • lyWords — adverbs, which will likely need to be deleted
  • NeedlessWords — words that clutter your writing
  • PassiveWords — words that can obscure meaning; change passive words to active words
  • PlainLanguage — high falutin’ words that can just as easily be replaced with simpler words
  • TellingWords — words that suggest instances of telling, where showing might work better

Editor Paul Beverley has created a 600-page book of free macros. You'll need to download his book to get these helpful macro scripts:

  • CountThisWord—tells you how many times you've used a word to determine if you've overused it
  • HighlightSame—highlights all instances of a word you've selected; use it with CountThisWord
  • LongSentenceHighlighter—highlights long sentences so you can shorten them

If you're not sure how macros can help, or how to use them, this free 20-minute macro course will have you up and running in no time!

You can't always see where your writing needs fixing. Revision macros can help you to see what you're missing.

Image by Linda Åslund

A Macro for Commonly Confused Words

 

A Macro For Commonly Confused Words

By C.K. MacLeod

Updated July 30, 2015

Thanks to Eliza Dee for suggesting a tweak that makes this macro even better (see the comments below for details)! The macro script has been updated.

Adverse or averse? Assent or ascent? English contains many words that are easily confused—words that sound the same, but have different meanings and spellings.

Tackle potential confusables when it's time to edit your writing. The macro below will highlight commonly confused words in just minutes. After you run the macro, check the highlighted words to see if you've used them correctly. Refer to this list to look up any words you're unsure of.

Tip for editors: use this macro to make potential confusables stand out during a first pass.

Quick Steps

  1. Copy and paste the macro into Word's VBA.
  2. Run the macro on your writing.
  3. Remove highlighting from words as you check them.

Sub Confusables()
' Highlights confusables
'
' Written by Roger Mortis, revised Subcortical, Jami Gold, C.K. MacLeod and Eliza Dee; word list, Commonly Confused Words by Oxford Dictionaries http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/commonly-confused-words
'
Dim range As range
Dim i As Long
Dim TargetList
TargetList = Array("accept", "except", "adverse", "averse", "advice", "advise", "affect", "effect", "aisle", "isle", "altogether", "all together", "along", "a long", "aloud", "allowed", "altar", "alter", "amoral", "immoral", "appraise", "apprise", "assent", "ascent", "aural", "oral", "awhile", "a while", "balmy", "barmy", "bare", "bear", "bated", "baited", "bazaar", "bizarre", "birth", "berth", "born", "borne", "bow", "bough", "break", "brake", "broach", "brooch", "canvas", "canvass", "censure", "censor", "cereal", "serial", "chord", "cord", "climactic", "climatic", "coarse", "course")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = True
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdViolet
Loop
End With
Next

Dim TargetList1
TargetList1 = Array("complacent", "complaisant", "complement", "compliment", "council", "counsel", "cue", "queue", "curb", "kerb", "currant", "current", "defuse", "diffuse", "desert", "dessert", "discreet", "discrete", "disinterested", "uninterested", "draught", "draft", "draw", "drawer", "duel", "dual", "elicit", "illicit", "ensure", "insure", "envelop", "envelope", "exercise", "exorcise", "fawn", "faun", "flair", "flare", "flaunt", "flout", "flounder", "founder", "forbear", "forebear", "forward", "foreword", "freeze", "frieze", "grisly", "grizzly", "hoard", "horde", "imply", "infer", "loathe", "loath")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList1)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList1(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = True
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdViolet
Loop
End With
Next

Dim TargetList2
TargetList2 = Array("lose", "loose", "meter", "metre", "militate", "mitigate", "palate", "palette", "pedal", "peddle", "poll", "pole", "pour", "pore", "practice", "practise", "prescribe", "proscribe", "principle", "principal", "sceptic", "septic", "sight", "site", "stationary", "stationery", "story", "storey", "titillate", "titivate", "tortuous", "torturous", "wreath", "wreathe")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList2)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList2(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = True
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdViolet
Loop
End With
Next
End Sub


After you've addressed each highlighted word, use Paul Beverley's free UnHighlight macro to remove highlights, one instance at a time.

Not sure what a macro is? See this post for an explanation.

Learn how to use macros with this free 20-minute macro course. You can run macros in Microsoft Word or WPS Writer (pro version).

*The lists of words in this macro are from the Oxford Dictionaries website.

Image by Dvortygirl

Can Using Editing Tools Improve Your Writing?

Can Using Editing Tools Improve Your Writing?

By C.K. MacLeod and Carla Douglas

This post first appeared on June 17, 2015 at The Book Designer and on July 15, 2015 at Beyond Paper Editing.

In the tongue-in-cheek post How to Write a Book Even Faster, the author suggests that writers are not editing their writing. That can’t be true! (Right?) How do you edit your writing? Perhaps you use one of these self-editing approaches...

Approaches to Self-Editing

There are many ways to improve your writing. You can

  • set your writing aside for a month or two and tackle it again from a renewed perspective
  • get structured feedback from beta readers
  • hire an editor to assess your first draft and suggest improvements
  • run editing tools on your writing

Let’s look at each of these self-editing approaches.

DIY Feedback

You may be exhausted from your first-draft efforts. Setting your writing aside for a spell may give you the time you need to recharge and become excited about your book project again. It may also afford you the perspective you need to see where your writing needs fixing. This approach to self-editing is most effective if there aren’t time constraints, and if you’re able to see what needs improving.

External Feedback

The remaining items on the list above are different from the first item in one important way: they offer feedback on your writing from an external source — from someone, or something, other than you. Because it’s difficult to be objective about your own writing, external feedback can alert you to your writing blind spots.

Not everyone responds well to feedback from beta readers and editors. Writers need to be able to develop resilience for receiving feedback, but this takes time and practice. If you’re still working on developing your resilience, we have another “external” self-editing option for you: editing tools.

Editing Tools

Many editors use automated editing tools to efficiently find problems in a piece of writing. If writers want to learn how these tools work, they can use them to diagnose their own writing!

Below is a list of some our favourite editing tools, linked to articles that describe how to use them. We’ve organized them into the four levels of editing that every manuscript should go through.

Not all tools are diagnostic and automated.* Some of them, such as the paragraph-level and big-picture tools, will help you when it’s time to fix your writing. We’ve selected tools that we think will be most helpful to writers, but there are many more tools that you can explore and try.

Self-Editing Tools for Writers

Tool Word-level Sentence-level Paragraph-level Big-picture level
Consistency Checker* x x
Hemingway app* x x
PerfectIt Pro* x
Self-Editing macros* x
Scrivener’s Binder+ x x
Word’s Navigation Pane+ x x
Split-screen feature in Scrivener+ x x
Split-screen feature in Word+ x x

 

*Diagnostic tools: these tools will check for one or more potential writing problems with the click of a button.

+Fixing tools: these tools will help you fix writing problems, once they are identified.

As far as we know, there aren’t automated diagnostic tools that will point out paragraph-level and big-picture problems. At least not yet. For now, you’ll need to educate yourself about common paragraph-level and big-picture problems, or get some direction from beta readers and editors. You can use the paragraph-level and big-picture tools in the table above to efficiently fix problems, once you know what they are.

Advantages of Editing Tools

Editing tools have a few distinct advantages over the other self-editing methods mentioned at the beginning of this article:

  • They aren’t people, which means that writers probably won’t respond to feedback emotionally, or take feedback personally. A tool also won’t roll its eyes because you’ve forgotten to close quotations and parentheses 54 times in a 300-page book. It’ll point out these errors, without judgment. And we could all use a little less judgement.
  • If you consider what these tools are telling you about your writing, you will sharpen your self-editing skills.
  • You can use diagnostic editing tools five minutes after you’ve typed the period on the last sentence of your first draft. This makes editing tools brilliant for on-demand writing.
  • These tools are widely available, and some of them are cheap or free. (Editors are widely available, but they’re not cheap or free.)
  • If you plan to use tools for self-editing, and later decide to hire an editor, your editor may have less to do, and that can save on editing costs.

Can these tools help you to become a better writer? We’re still gathering data on that. From what we’ve seen — with authors who’ve been willing to act on the information suggested by diagnostic editing tools — it does seem possible.

For example, if a tool suggests that you’ve included needless words in your writing, after deleting 103 needless words in the first 50 pages of your manuscript, there’s a good chance that you’ll include fewer of them in your writing in future!

Limitations of Editing Tools

Editing tools will not do it all. They have limitations that are important to understand. They will not write your book, cook your breakfast, or collect your kids from school. And they also won’t do these three things:

Won’t Think for You

An editing tool can alert you to potential problems with your writing. You need to decide when to address a highlighted instance and when to ignore it.

For example, the Hemingway app will highlight adverbs in blue, so you can, presumably, obliterate them. Why? Adverbs can clutter your writing and indicate instances of telling instead of showing. (Show, don’t tell!)

But does that mean you need to excise every adverb in sight? No. Depending on what you’re writing, you may choose to sprinkle adverbs as you would expensive fleur de sel.

Won’t Fix It for You

Editing tools are not designed to fix your writing for you. They identify problems, or help you fix problems efficiently. You have to do the heavy lifting.

For example, if your tool has highlighted a sentence that’s too long, you will need to divide that unwieldy beast into two shorter sentences. Your tool won’t do that for you.

Won’t Do the Footwork for You

If a solution to a writing problem isn’t obvious to you, you may need to dig around in writing craft books or style guides for help with interpreting what a tool is telling you.

Consider the example below. PerfectIt Pro 3 is asking the author to check the use of a hyphen in this instance. Has the author used the hyphen correctly?

Looking things up isn’t a waste of your time. The more you know why something might need fixing, the better your writing will be. If you let them, editing tools will show you where you quirks are, teach you what to pay attention to, and inspire (or provoke) you to make adjustments.

How to Use Editing Tools

As with any kind of learning, you need to go slowly or you could become overwhelmed. Here are some tips for keeping things manageable:

  1. Remember to begin with big-picture editing fixes and work your way down to word-level fixes. Editing order matters.
  2. Run diagnostic tools, one chapter at a time, until you become familiar with how these tools work. Exceptions: Run Consistency Checker and PerfectIt Pro on your entire book. Why? They’re designed to check for consistency across an entire manuscript.
  3. Run one tool at a time. Don’t run several tools at once. You’ll have too many things to pay attention to. The key is to remain focused and to improve your writing by degrees.
  4. Be strategic. You don’t need to run every tool on your writing, every time. Once you’re familiar with the tools we recommend, you’ll know which ones best address your most persistent writing quirks.
  5. Consult self-editing books for solutions to the writing problems your tools uncover.

Editing tools can help you to become aware of your writing blind spots and sharpen your self-editing skills. They may even help you become better at writing.

If, however, you’ve decided that learning how to use these tools is not for you, and you prefer to have writing problems fixed for you, we have yet another solution. Hire an editor! (You had to know we were going to say that.)

Note: We used the Hemingway app and PerfectIt Pro 3 to edit this article.

Image by Steve Snodgrass

Make Your Writing Readable with the Plain Language Macro

Embraced by wordsby C.K. MacLeod

Do you write or edit nonfiction? If you do, you need to know that readers are time pressed.

One way to make the reading experience more accessible to readers is to find ten-dollar words in your writing and swap them out with simpler words that most readers will be able to read and understand. It’s best to write as clearly and as simply as you can.

The PlainLanguage macro below will, with a few keystrokes, highlight in dark blue all the words in your writing that are difficult* to read and understand. Consider replacing these words with the alternatives listed at plainlanguage.gov:

Plain language site

*The difficult words in the macro script have been taken from the word list at plainlanguage.gov.

Copy the macro below from Sub to End Sub and paste it into Word's Visual Basic Application (VBA).

Remember to use judgement with the results of any macro. This macro will highlight difficult words, but only you can decide if each word is helping or hindering the reader.

Not sure what a macro is? See this post for an explanation. Also, see the free 20-minute Macro Course on this blog. It’ll have you up in running with macros in Word in no time!


Sub PlainLanguage()

' Highlights complex words
'
' Written by Roger Mortis, revised by Subcortical, adapted by

'Jami Gold and further adapted by C.K. MacLeod; word list:

'Simple Words and Phrases by www.plainlanguage.gov

'http://www.plainlanguage.gov/howto/wordsuggestions/simplewords.cfm#cd
'
Dim range As range
Dim i As Long
Dim TargetList
TargetList = Array("/", "a number of", "accompany", "accomplish", "accorded", "accordingly", "accrue", "accurate", "additional", "address", "addressees", "addressees are requested", "adjacent to", "advantageous", "adversely impact on", "advise", "afford an opportunity", "aircraft", "allocate", "anticipate", "apparent", "appreciable", "appropriate", "approximate", "arrive onboard", "as a means of", "as prescribed by", "ascertain")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdBlue
Loop
End With
Next

Dim TargetList1
TargetList1 = Array("assist", "assistance", "at the present time", "attain", "attempt", "basis", "be advised", "benefit", "by means of", "capability", "caveat", "close proximity", "combat environment", "combined", "commence", "comply with", "component", "comprise", "concerning", "consequently", "consolidate", "constitutes", "contains", "convene", "currently", "deem", "delete", "demonstrate")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList1)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList1(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdBlue
Loop
End With
Next

Dim TargetList2
TargetList2 = Array("depart", "designate", "desire", "determine", "disclose", "discontinue", "disseminate", "due to the fact that", "during the period", "effect modifications", "elect", "eliminate", "employ", "encounter", "endeavor", "ensure", "enumerate", "equipments", "equitable", "establish", "etc.", "evidenced", "evident", "exhibit", "expedite", "expeditious", "expend", "expertise")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList2)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList2(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdBlue
Loop
End With
Next

Dim TargetList3
TargetList3 = Array("expiration", "facilitate", "failed to", "feasible", "females", "finalize", "for a period of", "forfeit", "forward", "frequently", "function", "furnish", "has a requirement for", "herein", "heretofore", "herewith", "however", "identical", "identify", "immediately", "impacted", "implement", "in a timely manner", "in accordance with", "in addition", "in an effort to", "in as much as", "in lieu of")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList3)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList3(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdBlue
Loop
End With
Next

Dim TargetList4
TargetList4 = Array("in order that", "in order to", "in regard to", "in relation to", "in the amount of", "in the event of", "in the near future", "in the process of", "in view of", "in view of the above", "inception", "incumbent upon", "indicate", "indication", "initial", "initiate", "inter alia", "interface", "interpose no objection", "is applicable to", "is authorized to", "is in consonance with", "is responsible for", "it appears", "it is", "it is essential", "it is requested", "liaison")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList4)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList4(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdBlue
Loop
End With
Next

Dim TargetList5
TargetList5 = Array("limited number", "magnitude", "maintain", "maximum", "methodology", "minimize", "minimum", "modify", "monitor", "necessitate", "notify", "not later than", "notwithstanding", "numerous", "objective", "obligate", "observe", "operate", "optimum", "option", "parameters", "participate", "perform", "permit", "pertaining to", "portion", "possess", "practicable")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList5)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList5(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdBlue
Loop
End With
Next

Dim TargetList6
TargetList6 = Array("preclude", "previous", "previously", "prior to", "prioritize", "proceed", "procure", "proficiency", "promulgate", "provide", "provided that", "provides guidance for", "purchase", "pursuant to", "reflect", "regarding", "relative to", "relocate", "remain", "remain", "remainder", "remuneration", "render", "represents", "request", "require", "requirement", "reside")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList6)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList6(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdBlue
Loop
End With
Next

Dim TargetList7
TargetList7 = Array("retain", "said", "selection", "set forth in", "similar to", "solicit", "some", "state-of-the-art", "subject", "submit", "subsequent", "subsequently", "substantial", "successfully complete", "such", "sufficient", "take action to", "terminate", "the month of", "the undersigned", "the use of", "there are", "there is", "therefore", "therein", "thereof", "this activity", "time period")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList7)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList7(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdBlue
Loop
End With
Next

Dim TargetList8
TargetList8 = Array("timely", "transmit", "type", "under the provisions of", "until such time as", "utilization", "utilize", "validate", "viable", "vice", "warrant", "whereas", "with reference to", "with the exception of", "witnessed", "your office")
For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList8)
Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList8(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdBlue
Loop
End With
Next
End Sub


Image by Robbert van der Steeg

Troubleshooting Macros in Word

Helpby C.K. MacLeod

If you have a fresh install of Word 2010 on your computer (or even Word 2013), you may have trouble adding or running macros*. Here's how to sort that.


*Macros are tiny programs that can make writing and editing tasks more efficient and accurate. Some macros can help you to see things in your writing that you wouldn’t otherwise see. If you're a Mac user, see this tutorial for enabling macros in Word 2011.


Adjust Word's Settings

Word doesn’t automatically allow macros to work their magic with a fresh install. You need to adjust some settings in Word before that can happen.

To begin with, you need to give Word permission to enable macros. To do so, go to File, Options, Trust Center, Trust Center Settings button (bottom right), Macro setting (left) and uncheck all options except for Enable all macros and Trust access to the VBA object project model.

Set up Word for macros

The last two options need to be checked. Click OK.

Show Developer Tab

By default, Word’s Developer tab doesn’t show with a fresh install, either. I like to have this tab visible because it’s another place where you can create and run macros.

Word's developer tab

To reveal the Developer tab, go to File, Options, Customize Ribbon, and check the box next to Developer in the Main tab area. Click OK.

Show Word's Developer tab

You’re now set to create and run macros. You’ll find many helpful writing macros on this blog. Go ahead and give them a try! This free 20-minute Macro Course will get you started.

Image by Marc Falardeau

How to Ease Repetitive Strain Injury

By C.K. MacLeodGraffiti of words repeat again

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Is your wrist starting to ache and your fingers starting to tingle? If so, you could be experiencing early signs of repetitive strain injury.

You're not alone. I've gotten away with the same computer practices I've used for years, without a bodily complaint. Until now. Thankfully, it's not too late to develop new computer-healthy habits.

In dealing with RSI, it's important to do whatever you can to interrupt or reduce the actions that are causing you discomfort. Cycling through a variety of strategies on a daily basis can help. Here's what I’ve tried:

  • left-hand mousing (I typically mouse with my right hand—and yes, the first left-hand day was rough)
  • a new kind of mouse (to change my hand position)
  • a new way of mousing (on my pant leg—a lower hand position can ease strain)
  • a new keyboard, with a different configuration than my old one
  • keyboard shortcuts (to reduce mousing)
  • macros (to automate editing and proofreading tasks)
  • speech-recognition software (to reduce keyboarding and mousing)
  • writing in markdown (to prevent mousing for formatting operations)
  • frequent breaks (with the assistance of Workrave, a free RSI prevention app)
  • roller derby wrist guards (to temporarily immobilize my wrist and prevent further strain—yes, I play roller derby, and surprise! I sustain more injuries from my computer) — use with caution because, as my chiropractor pointed out, "mobility is better than immobility"
  • old-school technology (to reduce mousing)
  • hand exercises (thanks to J Washburn for this tip)
  • physiotherapy (thanks to Ahmed and Mike for sorting me out)
  • chiropractic (for a derby injury—but this will be my first stop if I have the misfortune of of sustaining a computer-related back injury)
  • rest

Disclaimer: I am not an authority on RSI—only a victim of it. But I did query an occupational therapist, a kinesiologist, and a physiotherapist, and they agreed that changing things up is a key to reducing strain. If you have pain in your wrist and fingers, your wisest course of action is to first consult with your physician, physiotherapist or chiropractor.

I suspect that the best way to deal with RSI is to prevent it. What are your RSI prevention strategies?

Image by Feral78

How to Add a Macro to Word

By C. K. MacLeod

Word icon

Macros can help you to identify areas in your writing that need improving. You can also use macros for formatting and editing tasks. Some word processing programs, like Microsoft Word, can handle macros. You'll find a list of writing macros you can try in this post, and the video below will show you how to add a macro to Word 2010:

Steps for Adding a Macro to Word

  1. Go to the View tab, and click on Macros in the Window area.
  2. Name your macro in the Macro name: box. Be sure your name has no spaces between words. For example, NeedlessWords.
  3. Click Create. You will now be taken to Word's VBA editor. This is where Word stores macros.
  4. Copy the macro script and paste it into Word's VBA. It will show you where to paste your macro (look for the section that has the same name as the macro you just named). Delete all the text that's there (everything from Sub to End Sub) and paste your macro script into the VBA editor.
  5. Close Word's VBA editor by going to File, Close and Return to Microsoft Word. Your macro will be saved and you can now use it with any Word document.

See this post for how to run a macro.

For further instructions on how to use macros, see Macros for Authors and Editors, in which Paul Beverley offers detailed instructions for understanding and running macros in various versions of Word.

Showing vs. Telling Macro

by @CKMacLeod

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Most writers are familiar with the adage, show, don't tell. But sometimes it's tricky to determine when those telling instances have crept into your writing.

Editor Janice Hardy of Fiction University explains how telling happens and offers advice for how to turn telling into showing. She and Valerie Comer of To Write a Story suggest lists of words you should avoid to prevent instances of telling.

I've inserted some of Valerie Comer's and Janice Hardy's telling words into the macro script below so you can identify them in your own writing. I've also included some words of my own.

Loch Ness telling sample
TellingWords in action; writing sample by Carla Douglas, used with permission

Copy the TellingWords* macro, below, from Sub to End Sub and paste it into Word's Visual Basic Application (VBA). When you run the macro, it will hunt down and highlight those telling words so you can tell them, I mean, show them who's boss.


Sub TellingWords()
' Highlights telling words
'
'
' Written by Roger Mortis, revised by Subcortical, adapted by Jami Gold and tweaked by C.K. MacLeod; word list by Valerie Comer and Janice Hardy
'
Dim range As range
Dim i As Long
Dim TargetList
TargetList = Array("was", "were", "when", "as", "the sound of", "could see", "saw", "notice", "noticed", "noticing", "consider", "considered", "considering", "smell", "smelled", "heard", "felt", "tasted", "knew", "realize", "realized", "realizing", "think", "thought", "thinking", "believe", "believed", "believing", "wonder", "wondered", "wondering", "recognize", "recognized", "recognizing", "hope", "hoped", "hoping", "supposed", "pray", "prayed", "praying", "angrily")

For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList)

Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdPink
Loop
End With
Next
End Sub


Note: You need to use judgement with the results of any macro. This macro will highlight the telling words, but only you can decide if it's an instance of telling.

To figure out what to do with the words the macro highlights, refer to Janice Hardy's excellent show vs. tell posts. Also, this macro is a work in progress. Are there words I should include? Omit? Let me know in the comments section below.

Not sure what a macro is? See this post for an explanation. See also the videos for adding a macro and running a macro in Microsoft Word 2010.

What do you do with the highlighted words this macro finds? See Carla Douglas' post at the Beyond Paper Editing blog for suggestions.

 Image by Pete

*Karen Woodward calls this macro the AddWords macro because you can add any list of words that you want the macro to find. The first version of this macro was written by Roger Mortis, revised by Subcortical, appropriated for writing by Karen Woodward, tweaked byJami Gold, and further tweaked by me, making it a true community effort.