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.

A 5-Minute Guide to Evernote

Elephantby C.K. MacLeod

Do you use Evernote to capture ideas and research? Many writers do. Evernote isn't difficult to learn. Here’s my five-minute guide to understanding Evernote.

What is Evernote?

Evernote is a free, multi-platform storage and organization tool. It can store

  • any notes or task lists that you write
  • audio clips
  • digital files
  • pictures
  • scanned documents
  • screen shots
  • video clips
  • web articles

Anything you store in Evernote is searchable, using Evernote’s powerful built-in search engine.

Uses for Evernote

Writers use Evernote for capturing ideas and for organizing research. (If you're a Scrivener user, you can export Evernote into Scrivener’s Research folder, keeping everything in one place.) You can also use Evernote to scan receipts to keep track of small business expenses.

Getting Started With Evernote

Open an Evernote account. Opening an account will give you access to an online version of Evernote. If you want to use Evernote on your phone, tablet, or computer, download the app for your device. Evernote will conveniently sync across devices, so your ideas and research are with you wherever you go.

Adding Content

To add content to Evernote, start a new Note. You can add handwritten notes, typewritten notes, audio notes, video notes, pictures, and scanned documents. Evernote can handle anything you’d like to record and store.

Evernote New Note
Click on New Note to add a note to Evernote for PC

Audio Notes

If you’re on the go, and it’s not convenient to key content into Evernote, you can use Evernote’s Audio Notes feature to record your ideas. On a PC, Select the New Audio Note and click the Record button. On a tablet or phone, click on the Microphone button.

Evernote Clipper

You can gather information from the Internet, too. Simply copy and paste a URL into a Note, or for quick link and info gathering, add the Evernote Clipper to your browser.

Evernote Clipper
Capture articles and links from your browser

Evernote Clipper is a plug-in that you install in an internet browser on your computer. I have Evernote Clipper installed on Google Chrome on my PC. Whenever I find an image, article, or website I’d like to capture, I click on the Evernote Clipper icon, and it’s immediately stored in my Evernote account for retrieval later.

Camera

You can use your smartphone or tablet camera to take pictures to store in Evernote. This is useful if you’re out and about and an object or scene inspires you. Open your Evernote app and click on the Camera icon.

Evernote camera

Reminders

You can attach due dates to Notes in Evernote. Click on the Clock icon and select the due date from the calendar.

Evernote clock

Note Sharing

Finally, you can share your notes with others. Open the note you want to share, click on the Share icon and choose how you’d like to share it. You can share a link to the note, email the note to a recipient, or discuss it in a group chat.

Evernote share

Finding Things Quickly

In a short period of time, you can amass many Notes in your Evernote account. To find Notes quickly, organize your them into Notebooks. I like to have one Notebook for each project I’m working on.

Evernote Notebooks Notes

Evernote’s powerful search engine has optical character recognition (OCR) abilities. It will scan all content, including words in pictures, so that it’s available for keyword searching. You can also add tags—your own key words—to each note, so you can find things easily later.

Evernote search tags

Evernote has a great deal of potential for notetaking and note collecting. If you’ve spent five minutes to read this post, you'll know enough to get started.

Image by Guido da Rozze

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

Scrivener Cheat Sheet (Downloadable)

Scrivener

by C.K. MacLeod

@CKmacleodwriter

Scrivener is a wonderful tool for writing and producing book-length works. It allows you to

  • move chunks of text around with ease
  • organize research notes, references, and even notes to yourself—in the same project file
  • convert your book to ebook, web, and print formats

Help for Beginners

When you first open the program, though, it can seem a little confusing. This downloadable cheat sheet will help you to begin using Scrivener right now. Print it and stick it on the wall next to your computer.

You'll notice that I've listed the commands associated with the more common "writing moves" and grouped items by stages of the writing process.

Did I miss a Scrivener move in my cheat sheet? Feel free to leave a comment below.

A version of this post was originally posted at the Beyond Paper blog.

Image by Alan Reyes