How to Automate Writing and Editing Tasks

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by C.K. MacLeod

Writing takes a great deal of energy, focus, and time. Add to that the necessary revising and editing tasks required to polish your writing and writing is now a part-time job. Or a full-time job.

What if I told you that you could automate some writing and editing tasks?

Recently, my editing colleague Paul Beverley created a macro that accomplished in five minutes what it would take me half a day to do manually.

In fact, Paul Beverley has created over 450 macros, many of which have made editing tasks, in particular, easier to manage. You can download his free book of macros — Computer Tools for Editors — at Archive Publications. And, if you’ve never used a macro before, you can learn how in this free 20-minute macro course.

Automating Editing Tasks

So, what kinds of writing and editing tasks can you automate with the use of macros and other tools? Here is my current list of favourite tasks to automate:

  • Pull out citations from your chapters and list them on a separate page so you can build a reference list or bibliography (CiteCheck — Computer Tools for Editors)
  • Reach readability targets and make writing easier to understand (PlainLanguage macro or Hemingway Editor)
  • Clean up formatting to get a book ready for ebook conversion, or a content ready to upload to a website (FRedit — Computer Tools for Editors)
  • Build in better use of Bloom’s Taxonomy verbs for how-to books, teaching articles and online courses (FRedit— Computer Tools for Editors)
  • Remove most instances of passive voice for livelier writing (Hemingway Editor or PassiveWords macro)

And for my fiction writing friends...

  • Identify instances of telling, where showing might work better (TellingWords macro).

In Making Word 2010 Work for You, Hillary Powers points out that if you repeat an editing action three times, you might want to find a way to automate it. Wise advice.

What writing or editing tasks would you like to automate? What tools are you using?

Image by weasel.jem

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