Showing vs. Telling Macro

by @CKMacLeod


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
End With
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.

How to Format an Ebook the Simple Way

Word iconby C. K. MacLeod


One of the easiest ways to format an ebook is to begin with the tool you probably already have—Microsoft Word. 

I know, I know. HTML & CSS enthusiasts and InDesign evangelists everywhere have just engaged in a collective shudder. 

But hear me out. Not all self-pubs have access to expensive design software or the time or interest for the required learning curve. Many of them do have access to Microsoft Word, though. Why not begin where they’re at? That’s what Joel Friedlander and Aaron Shepard have done. You’re welcome to take it up with them. wink

So, having gotten that out of the way, if your manuscript is in Microsoft Word, there are several things you can do to ensure a smoother transition from Word to ebook. Your first step is to clean up your book in Word. Here’s what you need to do:


  1. Remove headers, footers, and page numbers.
  2. Remove underlining in headings.
  3. Remove footnotes.
  4. Remove two spaces after end punctuation.
  5. Remove manual tabs and spaces.
  6. Remove text boxes.
  7. Remove tables formatted in Word. Reinsert them as images instead.
  8. Avoid using the list buttons on the ribbon to create bulleted and numbered lists.
  9. Choose photos over clip-art.
  10. Decide if you need an index.
  11. Use italics to emphasize words—but sparingly.

Read more at the Beyond Paper blog.

Ebooks Made Easy: Word to Jutoh in 10 Steps

Jutoh Ebook Editorby C.K. MacLeod

Updated. Originally posted at Beyond Paper Editing.

Have you discovered Jutoh? Jutoh is an elegant and inexpensive piece of software ($39 USD) that allows you to convert Word docx files or ODT files to epub and mobi ebook formats.

Jutoh will work for fiction that’s mostly straight text, but it will also handle nonfiction texts with

  • pictures
  • headings
  • bulleted and numbered lists, and
  • internal and external hyperlinks

Word to Jutoh Workflow

Below is my Word-to-Jutoh workflow. Unless otherwise stated, I perform most of these steps in Word 2010.

1. Tag any special formatting that you’d like to retain, such as headings, italicized and boldface words, and hyperlinks. JW Manus suggests a system for tagging special formatting. Use what works for you. The idea is that you want to be able to search and replace for these items later.

2. Nuke your Word doc. Word is infamous for creating formatting gremlins that can show up in your ebook. Zap ’em. Copy your entire book into Notepad (comes with Windows) or another text editor and paste it into a brand new Word document. I then execute a Clear All from the Word Styles menu for good measure.

A bit much? Maybe. But I’ve noticed that a nuke doesn’t always remove hidden fonts. How do I know? CrossEyes (free for PC users) helps me to see what lies beneath…

3. Clean up any extra uses of the space bar and Enter key, such as extra spaces between words and after end punctuation, or extra paragraph spaces. Clean up tabs, too. You can use a copyeditor’s trick and do this automatically by using tools like the Editorium’s File Cleaner or the Wiley Publishing Cleanup Tool (free). You can also use Word’s Find and Replace feature to clean up extra tabs and spaces.

4. Set heading and paragraph styles in Word. If you want to use an indented paragraph style, be sure to set your indents in your paragraph style. Use fonts that are ebook-friendly and copyright free. Times New Roman is always a safe bet. Remember, readers can adjust fonts on their e-readersyou want to choose a font that plays nicely with conversion software.

5. Resize images in an image editor. I use Paint.NET, but GIMP is another good free option. Check your distributor (Amazonor Lulu, for example) for image width and height restrictions.

6. Insert images into your Word file (Insert, Image). Images can really increase your file size so you may need to compress them. You can compress them in your image editor by setting the image quality to 75%.

7. Insert external, or off-book hyperlinks where you’ve tagged them. Shorten links using a link shortening service, like or Pretty Link. Shortened links have a better chance of surviving your chosen distributor’s converter.

8. Address any cross-references, or internal hyperlinks in your book using Word’s bookmark feature. If you forget to do this in Word, you can use Jutoh’s indexing feature.

9. Page through your document with with the Show/Hide feature activated (Pilcrow). Look for any extra spaces you may have missed (or re-introducedit happens).

10. Export your file to Jutoh. If you’ve carefully formatted your document in Word, your file will export almost seamlessly, with styles, images, and hyperlinks attached. Tip: some font styles won’t export. If you use the ebook-friendly fonts recommended by the Jutoh manual, your fonts will transfer over.

Jutoh is designed to play nicely with Word. If you follow good ebook formatting practices in Word, your book file will convert seamlessly.

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

How to Make Word Behave Like Scrivener

2775952906_5ba8ce091f_mby C. K. MacLeod


There’s been much to-do about Scrivener lately. And for good reason. Scrivener appears to be able to solve some problems that traditional word processing software hasn’t been able to adequately address.

One of Scrivener’s strengths, its Binder feature, allows writers to manage and keep track of sections of a book-length work rather easily.

ScrivenerBinderWhat many writers don’t know is that Microsoft Word 2010 has a similar feature: the Navigation Pane.

Word’s Nav Pane isn’t ready-to-use when you first open Word, but a few simple tweaks can get it working for you:

Quick Steps

  1. Open Word. Sketch out your book outline by listing chapter titles, scenes, plot points, or story beats.
  2. Using Word’s Style menu, apply a heading style to each item in your outline.

Word 2010 Styles menu3. Open the Navigation Pane in Word by using the keyboard shortcut CTRL + F and clicking on the left tab in the Nav Pane. This is Word’s answer to Scrivener’s Binder.

WordNavigationpane4. Click on entries in the Nav Pane to navigate the document, and when you’re feeling wild and crazy, move them around. Moving entries in the Nav Pane results in moving sections around in your running document.

In sum, by setting up the Nav Pane, you’ve essentially set up Word to behave like Scrivener’s Binder.

There are ways to tweak Word so that it serves you better. Learning how to use the Navigation Pane will make book-length works easier to manage.

For further discussion on setting up Word’s Nav Pane, read more at the Beyond Paper blog.

4 Ways to Customize Word for Writing and Editing

Customized sneakers

by C.K. MacLeod

You can customize Microsoft Word* so that it’s more efficient for writing, editing, and self-publishing. Here’s how:

1. Turn off AutoFormatting.

Out of the box (or with a fresh download), Word attempts to be helpful. Only it isn’t. Unless you change its native settings, it will format your writing in unintended ways. For example, Word may misinterpret a keystroke and insert a bulleted list or table where you don’t want one, or capitalize a word that’s meant to be lowercase.

Word’s AutoFormatting feature is to blame for these shenanigans.

To turn off AutoFormatting, go to File, Options, Proofing, Autocorrection and uncheck most of the options in the AutoFormat and AutoFormatAsYouType tabs. In the AutoCorrect tab, uncheck the box next to Replace text as you type.

Word autoformat window
Word’s AutoFormat window

Tip: It’s best to insert symbols, such as a copyright symbol, into your writing manually. You can do that by going to the Insert tab, selecting Symbol, and choosing the symbol you wish to insert.

2. Turn off grammar check.

If you’re a native speaker of English, your knowledge of grammar will be better than Word’s. Guaranteed. Don’t let Word tell you otherwise.

To turn off grammar check, go to File, Options, Proofing, and uncheck both of these items: Mark grammar errors as you type and Check grammar with spelling.

No more squiggly green lines under sections of your text. You’re welcome.

3. Turn on the Navigation Pane.

Word’s Navigation Pane can can help you to move around sections of your book easily. This is especially helpful during the revision stage of writing (Scrivener users who are familiar with Scrivener’s Binder will attest to the value of this function).

Word's Navigation Pane

Ctrl + F opens the Navigation Pane. It isn’t ready-to-use when you first open it, but if you know how to apply heading styles as you write, you’ll be able to harness the power of the Nav pane. This article offers some how-tos.

4. Install editing add-ins.

You can buy add-ins that are designed to work in Microsoft Word. Some add-ins can automate many editing and document clean-up tasks. These add-ins can help you polish your writing and get your manuscript ready for print and ebook formats:

Clean-Up Tools

These tools allow you to remove tabs, spaces, paragraph returns and styles not in use in your document and more—with a few key strokes.

Self-Editing Tools

There are many ways to customize Word. These four tweaks can turn Word into a writer’s tool.

Note: *I use Word 2010. Instructions for your version of Word might be slightly different.

Image by woodleywonderworks

Convert a Table to Text in Word


by C.K. MacLeod


When you’re writing nonfiction, you often need to think about how best to present information—as a bulleted or numbered list, in a table, as a diagram, in a paragraph, and so forth. Your options are many.

Recently, I wanted to convert a two-column table to a single-column bulleted list in Word without having to re-key the whole thing. Here’s how you can do that quickly in Microsoft Word 2010:

Table-to-Text Quick Steps

  1. Select the table. This will bring up the Table Tools tab in Word. Click on the Layout tab.
Table Tools in MS Word
Table Tools in MS Word
  1. Click on the Convert to Text button in the Data area. A dialogue box will ask you to choose what separators you want to use. I chose the hyphen but you can choose a comma, too. It doesn’t matter because you’re going to remove the separator, anyway.
Convert Table to Text dialogue
Convert Table to Text dialogue
  1. You now have a list with hyphens between your two “columns” of words. To get rid of the hyphens, and put everything into a single column, use Word’s Find and Replace function to remove the hyphens and put a hard return between list items. Put a hyphen in the Find What box and put the paragraph code ^p (to indicated a hard return) in the Replace With box:
Remove hyphens and hard returns with Word's Find and Replace
Remove hyphens and hard returns with Word’s Find and Replace

And that’s it! You turned a table into a single-column list in a few short moves.

Image by Sid Mosdell

Hunt Down Adverbs with a Macro

by C.K. MacLeod

…the road to hell is paved with adverbs and I will shout it from the rooftops.

~Steven King


Do you use -ly words in your writing? Do you use them with the dialogue tags he said and she said?

Example: “Who do you think you are?” she said arrogantly.

According to author Steven King, using adverbs in your writing, particularly with dialogue tags, can be a problem.

You can hunt down -ly adverbs with a macro. Karen Woodward has good multipurpose -ly macro, or you can insert your own list of -ly words in the macro script below (I’ve gotten you started). The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists, by Edward Bernard Fry et al. has a fabulous list of adverbs commonly used with dialogue tags.

Copy the macro from Sub to End Sub and paste it into Word’s Visual Basic Application (VBA). Word will highlight all of the adverbs in bright green.

Sub lyWords()

‘ Highlights -ly words used in tags

‘ Written by Roger Mortis, revised by Subcortical, adapted by Jami Gold and tweaked by C.K. MacLeod

Dim range As range
Dim i As Long
Dim TargetList
TargetList = Array( “angrily”, “cautiously”, “happily”, “sadly”,  “unhappily”)

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 = wdBrightGreen
End With
End Sub

Remember to use judgement with the results of any macro. This macro will highlight -ly words, but only you can decide if each word is helping or hindering your writing.

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 Quinn Dombrowski

How to Design A Book Cover in Word

Word icon

By C.K. MacLeod


Did you know you can design an ebook cover in Word? I’d have hardly believed it unless I’d tried it myself. Until now, I’ve been limping rather awkwardly in GIMP. But creating a cover in Word has blown things wide open for me.

Idea to Ebook cover31Jan14_01

Graphic designer Derek Murphy wrote a tutorial that helped me to create the cover on the left. I am not a designer, but I learned an awful lot about design principles just by following his steps. He’s a great teacher.

I entered the cover in the Ebook Cover Design Awards competition on the Book Designer blog. You can see the results here. (You’ll need to scroll down three-quarters of the way to see the cover.) Not bad for the first time out.


If you have Word 2010 on your computer, and you’d like to try your hand at designing a cover just for fun, give Derek’s tutorial a try. It’s so much easier than designing a cover in GIMP.

Cover Design Quick Steps

  1. Follow Derek Murphy’s tutorial to the letter.

  2. Convert your Word cover into a JPG or PNG using one of these tools.

Read more at the Beyond Paper blog.

Find Passive Words in Your Writing

Verb, pure verb

Passive words can make your writing dull. Use this macro to find passive words so you can replace them with strong, active words. Word will highlight passive words in bright green.

Copy the macro from Sub to End Sub and paste it into Microsoft Word’s Visual Basic Application (VBA). This free 20-minute macro course will show you how.

Sub PassiveWords()

‘ Highlights passive words

‘ Written by Roger Mortis, revised by Subcortical, adapted by Jami Gold and tweaked by C.K. MacLeod; words selected from Ryan Macklin’s passive words list at

Dim range As range
Dim i As Long
Dim TargetList
TargetList = Array(“be”, “being”, “been”, “am”, “is”, “are”, “was”, “were”, “has”, “have”, “had”, “do”, “did”, “does”, “can”, “could”, “shall”, “should”, “will”, “would”, “might”, “must”, “may”)

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 = wdBrightGreen
End With

End Sub

Remember to use judgement with the results of any macro. This macro will highlight passive words, but only you can decide if each word is helping or hindering your writing.

Image by Rebecca Siegel