Omit Needless Words with a Macro

by C.K. MacLeod 353183634_ef631ed00a_m

One of the easiest ways to improve your writing is to "omit needless words"—words that once removed, make your writing clear (Strunk & White).

The fastest way to find these words in your writing is to run the Needless Words macro* in Microsoft Word. This macro will highlight every needless word, so you can decide if each word is necessary. Not sure what a macro is? See Improve Your Writing with Macros for details.

NeedlessWords macro in action
NeedlessWords macro in action

Below is the script for the macro. You'll need to add this script to Word's Visual Basic Application (VBA). See the videos How to Add a Macro to Word, then How to Run a Macro in Word for next steps.

Inspired by Jami Gold's macros for writers post, I've added Janice Hardy's Words to Avoid list (minus the word "that") to my version of the macro. The macro is customizable and you can add any list of words you like.

Copy the macro from Sub to End Sub and paste it into Word's VBA.


Sub NeedlessWords()
' Highlights unnecessary words
'
'
' Written by Roger Mortis, revised by subcortical, adapted by Jami Gold and tweaked by C.K. MacLeod; word list by Janice Hardy
'
Dim range As range
Dim i As Long
Dim TargetList
TargetList = Array("then", "almost", "about", "begin", "start", "decided", "planned", "very", "sat", "truly", "rather", "fairly", "really", "somewhat", "up", "down", "over", "together", "behind", "out", "in order", "around", "only", "just", "even")

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 = wdTurquoise
Loop
End With
Next
End Sub


What other word lists could you add to this macro? Insert word lists between the parentheses in the macro script.

So, what do you do with the highlighted words this macro finds? See Carla Douglas' post How to Improve Your Writing with Macros—Tips for Beginners at the Beyond Paper Editing blog for suggestions.

*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, modified for writing by Karen Woodward, tweaked by Jami Gold, and further tweaked by me, making it a true community effort.

Image by Matt Scott

How to Add a Macro to Word

Button with the word macro on it, by Matt Scott.By C. K. MacLeod

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 the post Improve Your Writing With Macros, 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.

Next step: How to Run a Macro in Word.

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

Image by Matt Scott

How to Run a Macro in Word

 

by C.K. Macleod

Macros can help you to identify areas in your writing that need improving. You can also use macros for formatting and editing tasks. In the post Improve Your Writing with Macros I listed some free writing macros you can try, followed by the next step, How to Add a Macro to Word. This post will explain how to run a macro:

  1. Open a document in Word.
  2. Go to the View tab, and click on Macros in the Window area. Select a macro from the list and click on Run. The macro will work its magic on your document.

Where to learn more

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

Image by Matt Scott

Why Editors Use Word—Writers can Harness Word’s Powers, too!

by C.K. MacLeod

Why Editors Use Word

Revised and updated on Sept 12, 2015. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing.

Authors can use a variety of tools for the writing and publishing process. In Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast, I describe over 30 tools that authors can use, and some of them can even make the writing and publishing process more efficient.

Be sure to choose the best tool for the job, though. Take editing, for example. Microsoft Word is the professional editor’s tool of choice because it helps editors do their work better and faster.

Word’s Built-in Functions

Word has some pretty powerful built-in functions that can help editors hunt down errors efficiently:

Learning to use any of Word’s built-in functions can save an editor loads of time.

Add-ins and Macros

Word also works well with powerful add-ins and macros–tiny software programs that automate a variety of specific editing tasks. But it’s not just about automation; its about accuracy, too. These tools can help editors catch things they’d otherwise miss.

Here is a sample of editing tools and macros that have been designed to be used with Word:

  • CrossEyes: A “reveal codes” tool that helps you see the formatting that lurks in a document’s background. This is particularly helpful for ebook formatting (Word 2010 and earlier; PC only).
  • FileCleaner: For quick document clean-up
  • Computer Tools for Writers and Editors (free): A variety of  macros designed to handle all sorts of editing challenges. FRedit is one worth trying.
  • PerfectIt: A consistency checker
  • Reference Checker: Checks in-text citations against references (for specific style guides)

Writers can use Word’s built-in functions, macros, and add-ins, too. There’s a learning curve involved with each tool, but if you have the time and interest to learn something new, these tools can help you save on editing costs later.

Note: if you ask your editor to edit your manuscript in software that doesn’t have or allow for the use of these tools, your editor will take longer to complete the job. Keep that in mind if you’re paying your editor by the hour!

Editors use Word because it helps them to do their best job for you, the author. I suspect that editors will continue to use Word until other tools can rival Word’s capabilities.


Note: Many of the macros listed in this post are designed for Word for PC and are not available for Mac users. Mac users can write their own macros, though, and run Parallels Desktop so that they can make use of commercially available macros.

Image by leigh49137

The Best Multipurpose Tool for Self-Publishing

Swiss army knife

by C.K. MacLeod

I’m a firm believer in finding and using the best tool for the job. However, it’s not always possible to learn a handful of tools before you need to produce book. When you’re at the beginning of the self-publishing learning curve, it makes sense to choose a multipurpose tool that will do a decent job of everything, and then invest your time in learning how to use that tool well.

If I were to choose one tool that hits on everything required to publish an ebook, it’d be this one:

Microsoft Word.

So, why Word? It's kind of like the self-publisher's Swiss army knife. If you have time to learn only one tool, this tool will serve you well.

Note: I know that many writers use Scrivener, and for good reason. Still, Scrivener will not do all the things that Word can do. Definitely make it the next tool you learn, though.

Below, I’ve listed the steps in the publishing process that Word can handle.  Don’t take my word for it (I couldn't resist...), decide for yourself if Word is a one-stop shop for your publishing workflow.

Tip: Find help for your version of Word here.

Writing

Out of the box, Word will need a few tweaks to customize it for writing and self-publishing. Once you’re set up, writing in Word is straightforward.

Revising

If you know how to apply heading styles while you write, you’ll be able to make use of Word’s Navigation Pane, which behaves like Scrivener’s Binder. You’ll then be able to easily move sections of text around while revising.

Editing

Word shines at the editing stage of the publishing process. It has built-in tools I can’t imagine doing without. You can also use editing add-ins and macros with Word, making editing a more accurate and efficient process. To date, there isn't a better tool for editing than Word.

Adding Images

It’s easy to insert images into your book with Word. Further, Word’s Smart Art and table design features can give an ordinary table visual zip.

Cover Design

While Word is known for its word processing abilities, it also has built-in graphic design tools.

On a lark, I designed a cover for one of my books using Word’s design tools and Derek Murphy’s excellent cover design tutorial to guide me. The cover won an honourable mention at the Ebook Cover Design Awards. The judges were surprised that the cover had been designed in Word, and I was surprised that Word’s design tools were easy enough to use, even for a non-designer.

Formatting

It is possible to format an ebook in Word and upload a Word file directly to Amazon or Smashwords. The key to the success of this method lies on your ability to create a “clean” Word file.

Word’s built-in tool, the Show/Hide feature, can help you see unnecessary formatting that can make your ebook misbehave. You can find and delete potential formatting glitches with Word’s Advanced Find and Replace feature. Add-in clean-up tools, such as CrossEyes and FileCleaner, can help you clean up a book file in a snap.

When it’s time to design your ebook, ebook design templates can help you create attractive ebooks. Print templates are available, too.

Beta Reader Reviews

You can create PDFs with Word 2010 and later. This is handy when you want to send an advance copy of your book to beta readers who like to mark-up a copy of your book on a tablet. Alternatively, you can send beta readers a copy of your book in docx format, so they can read it on a Kindle using their Send-to-Kindle email address.

Ebook Extras

Many authors are creating extra material, such as checklists, to accompany ebooks. This material is often posted on the author’s website. Word will allow you to create posters, PDFs, and interactive checklists to complement your ebook.

So, if you have time to learn only one tool, Word could be that tool. It’s the only tool I know of that accomplishes so much, so well.

Want an example of a book produced using Word? See Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast.

Image by Jim Pennucci

Using Split Screen for Editing

4260085353_5c0efc3f39_oby C. K. MacLeod

Word and Scrivener's split-screen functions are handy for editing long documents. At some point in the editing process, you may need to compare facts or details in one section of your book with facts and details in another section. Scrolling back and forth through pages and pages of writing can be frustrating, but with the split-screen function, you don't have to.

Here's how it works in Word and in Scrivener:

Split Screen in Word 2010

  1. In the Home tab, go to View and in the Window area, click on the Split button.
Word split screen button
Access Word's split screen in the View tab

A horizontal rule, or line, will show up across your document. Click anywhere in your document to anchor the rule. You can move the rule up or down at any time.

Note the horizontal rule in Word's split-screen view
Note the horizontal rule in Word's split-screen view
  1. In the split-screen view, the Split button has changed to the Remove Split button.To return to a single pane, go to View, Window area, Remove Split.

Split Screen in Scrivener

  1. Click on the Horizontal Split button in the top right of Scrivener's middle pane.
Horizontal split button
Scrivener split-screen view

The button will immediately change to the No Split button and Scrivener's horizontal split- screen view looks like this:

Scrivener's split-screen view
Scrivener's split-screen view

If you prefer to see your split screens side-by-side instead of stacked on top of one another, you can click on the Vertical Split button to the left of the Horizontal Split button.

  1. Click on the No Split button to return to single-pane view.

The next time you're working with a long document, and you're having to check facts, cross-references, or even write a concluding paragraph, consider using the split-screen function in Word or Scrivener to make the job easier.

Image by Nina Matthews

 

Consistency Checker—A Free Proofreading Tool

ConsistencyCheckerAdd-on

by C. K. MacLeod

@CKmacleodwriter

Have you discovered the Google Docs library of Add-ons?  They work like plug-ins and they can perform a variety of useful tasks.

Consistency Checker, by PerfectIt, is a lite version of one of my favourite proofreading tools. It will scan your document for:

  • abbreviations in two forms (US vs. U.S.)
  • common typos (teh vs. the)
  • contractions (contractions aren’t used in all kinds of writing)
  • hyphenation of words (in-line vs. in line)
  • numbers in sentences (spelled out or numerals?)
  • spelling variations (colour or color)

These are some of the items a copyeditor or proofreader will typically check in a manuscript.

Where to Get Consistency Checker

If you have a gmail account, you can get Consistency Checker through Google Docs:

  1. Click on the Add-ons tab in Google Docs, click on Get add-ons and search for the Consistency Checker by PerfectIt. Download the add-on.
  2. Open the Consistency Checker by once again clicking on the Add-ons tab in Google Docs. The Consistency Checker should now be listed.
  3. Click Open and then click Scan.

Interpreting Consistency Checker's results takes a bit of practice and may require you to look up a few things in a style guide, but once you have the hang of it, you can use this proofreading tool before you share your writing with the world.

For more information about Consistency Checker and other useful editing tools, see this post at the Beyond Paper blog.

3 Essential Tools for Publishing

By C. K. MacLeod Number three

Self-publishing authors are doing everything that traditional publishers once did: writing, editing, and designing and formatting books. These tasks require authors to be more tech aware than ever before.

Tech tools can help with tasks once handled by traditional publishers. Below, I'll share with you the three tech tools that I use for my self-publishing workflow.

Criteria for Choosing Tools

These are my criteria for choosing the tools I'll use...

A tool must

  • have the right features for the task
  • make a task more efficient
  • be inexpensive, from a cost-per-use standpoint
  • not take too much time to learn (there is only so much time for steep learning curves when you're a jack-of-all-trades)
  • have adequate support in the way of tutorials, videos, guides, forums, or someone to answer questions, if necessary

The tools I describe below meet all of these criteria.

Sure, it'd be wonderful if one tool could do it all, but I haven't found that tool (let me know if you have). No tool is designed to do everything, and using some tools for editing, for example, is akin to using a spoon to dig a hole to plant a tree. The smartest thing you can do is choose the best tool for the job.

These three tools are the best tools for the jobs I do...

Scrivener

For writing book-length works, I haven't found a tool that beats Scrivener. Scrivener shines in the way it allows writers to arrange and manipulate sections of a book. If you're a plotter, panster or tweener, you can begin writing your book from the beginning or middle because you can arrange your book's sections with ease later.

Scrivener will let you store your book alongside research notes and pictures, and it has nifty colour coded labels that can help you to indicate your progress on a section of writing. You can also set word count targets, which can help you reach your daily or weekly writing goals.

Scrivener Labels
Assign coloured labels to files in Scrivener

This handy Scrivener cheat sheet will get you started.

While Scrivener has track changes and comments features, it isn't my favourite tool for editing my writing. As a professional editor, I know that there are ways to automate editing tasks, which helps with efficiency, but more importantly, helps me to catch errors I'd otherwise miss.

Microsoft Word / WPS Writer

My tool of choice for automated editing tasks is Microsoft Word. Most professional editors use Word for editing, and with good reason. If Word isn't in your budget, try WPS Writer(part of the WPS Office suite). The free version mirrors many of Word's powerful features. Upgrading to the Pro version ($60) will allow you to run macros—tiny programs that automate hours-long editing tasks with a few clicks. If you can cut and paste, you can learn to use a macro. This free 20-Minute Macro Course will teach you how.

For the record: while I do everything to make my writing as polished as it can be, I know that I'm not the best person to copyedit my own writing. I have my editor do that. If you hire a copyeditor, your copyeditor will most likely work in Word (and if she doesn't, and she charges by the hour, you may pay more for editing than you should).

Jutoh

After the editing stage, you'll likely format your book for e-reading devices. Word is notoriously finicky for formatting ebooks, and Scrivener creates ebook files with unsightly gaps between words. So, while you can format ebooks with Scrivener or Word, they aren't the best tools for the job.

To format ebooks, I prefer Jutoh for a more reliable outcome. You can export an edited Word document into Jutoh easily, and if you've had the foresight to style your paragraphs and headings in Word, those styles will transfer, too. Jutoh will then create an epub or a mobi.

Having the right tools for the right tasks will help you produce better books, faster. While the tools I recommend aren't the only tools to get the job done, they are the best tools I've found to date.

Image by Hubert Figuière

New Tool for Writing and Editing: WPS Writer

Apples to apples

by C.K. MacLeod

Are you unhappy that Microsoft Word 2013 is available only through subscription? Consider this alternative: WPS Writer* (formerly Kingsoft Office).

A New Tool for Editing?

Until now, Microsoft Word has been the best tool for editing, but I'd like to suggest that WPS Writer is a close contender. The lite version is free and loaded with features, and it's part of an office suite that includes a word processor, spreadsheet program, and presentation software (also free). The Office Suite Pro version is reasonably priced at $69.95 USD, and it has some additional features—including the ability to run macros—that you'll want for your self-editing toolkit.

If you're happy to forego using macros in your writing process, the lite version will provide you with most of the writing and self-editing features you'll need. Don't hold out on macros for too long, though. Macros can help you to pinpoint difficulties in your writing, so you can fix them.

Tablet App

WPS Writer is also available for iOS and Android tablets (free)—for authors who like to edit on-the-go. If you use Dropbox to store your files, moving back and forth between the desktop app and the tablet app is relatively seamless.

WPS Writer and Word: A Comparison

Below is a table that compares Word 2010—the last non-subscription version of Word—with WPS Writer. I've listed all of the features typically used by authors and editors. If I've missed a feature, be sure to let me know in the comments below.

Note: The table was created in WPS Writer using Table tools.

WPS Writer also comes with a comprehensive user manual. Pretty impressive, huh? So if you haven't been one of the lucky editor-sorts to scoop up one of the remaining copies of Word 2010, WPS Writer may well be worth a look.

A special thank you to Adam Santo for inspiring me to look into this software further.

*For those who are curious: WPS stands for Writer, Presentation, and Spreadsheets—the three components of WPS Office.

Image by Harald Hoyer

Showing vs. Telling Macro

by @CKMacLeod

9631208527_e38342509b_m

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.