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

Hemingway Editor: A Proofreading Tool for Writers

Ernest Hemingwayby C.K. MacLeod

Updated September 28, 2016

Proofreading tools are an easy way to help you see and fix potential problem areas in your writing. Recently, I discovered the Hemingway Editor created by Adam and Ben Long. It’s a standalone program that costs $20 US, and you can download it to a PC or a Mac computer. You can also try the free online version. It’s most helpful if your aim is to make your writing clear.

How it Works

The Hemingway Editor highlights common problems that can get in the way of clear writing:

  • Complex words or phrases
  • Extra-long sentences
  • Long sentences
  • Too many adverbs
  • Too many instances of passive voice

It colour codes each potential error type, so you can address them one at a time. You can see an explanation of each error type here.

The app won’t tell you

  • how to fix long sentences (shorten them),
  • what to do with adverbs (delete most of them), or
  • how to handle too many instances of passive voice (rewrite the sentence in the active voice—sometimes), but...

...it will suggest simple words for complex ones.

The Hemingway Editor (and other revision tools like it), will give you something to correct in your first draft, just minutes after you’ve written it. This makes it a terrific tool for on-demand writing with tight deadlines.

Hemingway2SimpleWord

Quick Steps

To use the Hemingway Editor, copy your text from your word processor and paste it into the text editor. Click on the Edit view to see areas that may need your attention.

Alternatively, you can write right in the app, in the Write view.

HemingwayWord

You can make corrections in the Hemingway Editor, and copy and paste your corrected text back into your word processor. Or, you can go back to your original text in your word processor and make changes there.

The newest version of Hemingway (2.0) will now allow you to  add heading and paragraph styles, and if you decide to save the file as a Word doc, the heading and paragraph styles will show up in Word. You can also export your file in markdown.

Note: I use the PC version of the Hemingway Editor, and I’ve found that it works well for articles, newsletters, and blog posts. The design team is working on some improvements, which means it may soon handle longer texts, such as book chapters.

Keep in mind, the Hemingway Editor is a simple text editor with proofreading features. Hyperlinks, bulleted lists, and images will not transfer as-is. You will lose some of the formatting.

The Hemingway Editor is an excellent tool, especially for the price. If you don’t want to use a separate program to revise your writing, and you already use Microsoft Word for editing and proofreading, try some of the revision macros on this blog. They’re free, and so is the 20-Minute macro course that will teach you how to use them.

Image by Thor

8 Proofreading Tools for Beta Readers

8 Proofreading Tools for Beta ReadersBy C.K. MacLeod

Updated. Originally posted on April 4, 2014.

Many self-publishing authors use beta readers to get feedback on a book before publication. You don't have to work on paper; you can use a computer or a tablet to "mark up" or make notes on an author's manuscript.

Below is a list of tools for beta readers. An author may send you a manuscript in a variety of formats, so I've included options for several file formats.

File Formats

Sometimes it will make sense to convert the author's file to another format. Many of the proofreading tools below will read PDFs. You can save an .rtf, .doc, or .docx file as a PDF with Microsoft Word or WPS Writer (free). If you have a stylus for your tablet, you may be able to mark up text like you would on paper.

This table will tell you which tool will read which file format. I summarize the features of the tools below.

Tablet Apps

Adobe Reader (free)

  • Reads PDF files
  • Available for Android and iOS
  • In-text highlights, strikethroughs, and comments
  • Drawing tools for mark-up
  • Works well with a stylus
  • Search function, so you can search all instances of an error

iAnnotate

  • Reads PDF files
  • Available for Android (free) and iOS ($9.99)
  • In-text highlights, strikethroughs and comments
  • Drawing tools for mark-up
  • Works well with a stylus

WPS Writer (free)

  • Part of the WPS Office suite
  • Available for Android and iOS tablets and phones
  • Reads .doc and .docx files
  • Track changes
  • Comments
  • Find and replace
  • Voice search
  • Syncs with desktop version so you can alternately work on a computer and a tablet

Computer Apps

WPS Writer (free and paid)

  • Part of the WPS Office suite
  • Reads .doc, .docx and .rtf files
  • Track changes
  • Comments
  • Robust find and replace
  • Wildcards
  • Pro version can run proofreading macros
  • Syncs with the tablet app version so you can alternately work on a computer and a tablet

Adobe Reader XI (free)

  • Reads PDFs
  • Used by professional proofreaders
  • Drawing tools for mark-up
  • Allows you to load PDF stamps into the software (see below), so you can mark a variety of proofreading errors with symbols instead of with comments
  • In-text highlights, strikethroughs and comments
  • Robust search function
  • Read-aloud feature so you can listen for mistakes that your eyes might miss

PDF XChange Editor (free)

  • Reads PDFs
  • Used by professional proofreaders
  • Drawing tools for mark-up
  • Allows you to load PDF stamps into the software
  • In-text highlights, strikethroughs and comments
  • Robust search function

Adobe Digital Editions

  • Reads epubs
  • Use ADE if the book has already been professionally formatted for e-readers
  • It's not possible to mark up in ADE, but you can copy sections of text into a word processor and mark up the changes there—procedure explained by Rob at 52 Novels

Kindle E-ink Readers and Apps

App or Desktop Version?

Computer software tends to have more robust search functions than tablet apps, but it can take a while to figure out how to use the drawing tools to mark up the text with a mouse.

Proofreading stamps are a shorthand for proofreading errors, and tend to make the proofreading process faster. Use them if the author knows what they mean (or provide the author with a glossary of symbols, if you like).

Note: As far as I know, stamps tend to only work in the desktop versions of proofreading software.

8 Proofreading Tools for Beta Readers
Wiley Publishing stamps in PDF XChange Editor

If you want to imitate the pros, you can import* proofreading stamps into your proofreading software or design your own. Louise Harnby of the Proofreading Parlour offers a collection of British proofreading stamps for free, and you can find American proofreading stamps on the Wiley Publishing website.

Do you have a favourite proofreading tool not listed here? Tell us about it in the comments below.

*To learn how to import proofreading stamps into Adobe Reader XI or design your own, see this video by Adrienne Montgomerie.

Image by Alan Levine

How to Proofread on a Kindle: 5 Easy Steps

Correct store signby C.K. MacLeod

Are you a beta reader or an editor? You don’t have to review or proofread a book on your computer. You can proofread it on a Kindle, or any device with the Kindle app loaded on it.

Here’s how:

1. Sign up for an Amazon account if you don’t already have one.

2. Add your reading device to your Amazon account, if it hasn’t been added already. Your device is automatically added to your Amazon account when you download the Kindle app onto it.

Once added to your Amazon account, your device will have an email address with an @kindle.com extension associated with it. To find this email address for your device, go to Your Account, Manage Your Content and Devices, and click on the Your Devices tab.

Amazon Your Devices

3. Go to your personal email account — your gmail account, for example. Email the book file as an attachment, from your personal email account to your @kindle.com email address. You can email a variety of file types, including .docx files or mobi files (one of Amazon’s formats).

Note: You need to email your book from the email account that’s associated with your Amazon account. If you use another email account, it won’t work. If you have more than one reading device linked to your Amazon account, make sure you’re emailing the document to the right device.

4. Turn on wifi and sync your Kindle or your Kindle app. The book should arrive on your reading device within a few minutes.

5. Use the Notes and Highlights feature in the Go To menu to proofread the book. If you're a beta reader, share the Notes and Highlights (your feedback) with the author.

Proofreading on a Kindle is easy. Further, proofreading a book in a new environment can help you to see errors that you’d otherwise miss.

Thanks to Carla Douglas at Beyond Paper Editing for teaching me this trick.

Image by M. Appelman

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.

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

A Self-Editing Toolkit

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.

PerfectIt*

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.

ReferenceChecker

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.

CrossEyes*

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.

Copyscape

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