A Self-Editing Toolkit


by C.K. MacLeod

Editors use a wide variety of tech tools to improve writing and to create a consistent reading experience for the reader. Below is a list of tools in many a professional editor's toolkit. Writers can use these tools, too.

Many of these tools will take of bit of time to learn and use, but the initial investment of time can pay dividends later. Other tools are quick to assimilate into a writing and self-editing workflow. I've marked those with an asterisk (*). Give these tools a try, and bring out your inner editor!

Microsoft Word

The current best tool for editing, mostly because it has a variety of robust built-in tools, and it can run useful editing macros and plug-ins (see below).

Word's Built-in Editing Tools

FileCleaner* (free trial)

Cleans up formatting mishaps such as extra spaces between paragraphs and sentences, changes two hyphens to em dashes, and much more, all with a click. Runs as a Word plug-in. This tool and other editing tools are created by Jack Lyon at the Editorium. Lyon is currently in the process of developing his tools for Mac users. Check his website for details.

Wiley Publishing offers a free clean-up tool* with some similar features to those found in FileCleaner.


A consistency checker that checks for typos that spell check won't catch, and helps you determine if you've made consistent style decisions (e.g. spelled a word the same way) throughout your document. For PCs only. The full version is a Word plug-in, and a free lite version, called Consistency Checker* by Intelligent Editing, is available as an Add-on through Google Docs.

EditTools (free trial)

Combines 25 macros into one customizable tool. Created by Rich Adin. Recommended by editor Ruth Thaler-Carter.

Phrase Express (free for personal use)

Corrects typos in all applications, and automatically keys in phrases that you tend to use a lot. It prevents you from keying in phrases and unwieldy terms again and again. I learned about this tool from editor Hilary Cadman.

Bibme (free)

Helps you build your reference list and saves you hours of time by styling your references correctly. This tool works best if you use it while writing your book.

Word 2010 also has a powerful reference-building feature. You can access it in the References tab, Citations & Bibliography area.


Checks that references and citations match up—particularly helpful if you've written a nonfiction book for print. This tool helps you to sort out your references after you've written your book.

Writing Macros* (free)

A list of writing macros that we've been experimenting with at Beyond Paper. Run them in Microsoft Word. Do macros scare you? This free 20-minute macro course will get you using macros in no time.


A reveal codes-type tool that helps you see the formatting that lurks in a document’s background. This is particularly helpful for solving mysterious formatting problems that arise while formatting an ebook.

Computer Tools for Editors (free)

An instructional book with a variety of macros designed to handle all sorts of editing challenges. FRedit is one worth trying. Created by Paul Beverley.


A plagiarism checker. Your content is your own, right? Run it through this tool to see if you've wandered too close to the line.

Adobe Reader XI

A PDF mark-up tool for proofreading a print PDF before it's printed. Some editors use Adobe Acrobat Pro, but I've found that Adobe Reader XI and PDF XChangeViewer (both free) do the trick. Adobe XI is available as a tablet app, and iAnnotate is also useful for proofreading on a tablet. See this post for PDF mark-up in action.

Proofreading Stamps (free)

Used with with Adobe Reader XI or PDF XChange Viewer. Proofreader Louise Harnby has designed proofreading stamps for British English and Wiley Publishing offers a free set of American English stamps.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary online* (free and subscription)

To check spelling, definitions, and word breaks. Many editors use the online version, but the tablet app's voice look-up makes it much faster to look up a word. The app is available for Android and iPad.

Link Checker for Microsoft Word (free trial)

Helps you to efficiently check the validity of ebook hyperlinks. You can also export a list of all the links in your book to a spreadsheet.

Editor Ken Endicott has a designed a series of free Microsoft Word utilities, one of which will help you to check the validity of your links.

Editors, do you have a favourite tool that I'm missing? Feel free to add it to the comments below.

Image by zzpza

4 thoughts on “A Self-Editing Toolkit”

    1. Thanks, Ruth! Jack Lyon has created other editing tools besides FileCleaner at the Editorium website. I'll add that detail.

  1. Great tool list. It's a bummer that some tools are not available for Mac users (e.g. Perfect It). I personally use Scrivener for writing and editing, and I love the fact that I can focus on writing and Scrivener deals with the nitty-gritty of formatting.

    1. You're right, Monica. PerfectIt is currently only available for PCs (I'll add that detail to my list). The good news is that Jack Lyon is currently developing FileCleaner and other Editorium tools for Macs.

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