The Proofreader's Parlour
A blog for editors, proofreaders and writers
Using macros can speed up the work of a proofreader or an editor, and can help to improve the consistency of the work you do. They offer speed and attention to detail (they don’t get bored and miss things), and you provide the intelligence: you understand the meaning and significance of the text, while to the computer it’s all just data.
Over the past few years, I’ve written macros to speed up a few aspects of the spelling process, but recently I’ve looked more radically at the whole spelling process. We all use spellcheckers, but let’s analyse what actually happens.
Word’s piecemeal spellcheck macro
When you press F7, Word runs its own spellcheck macro* but it’s a piecemeal checker – it only works on one word at a time – so you decide whether each word really is an error and, if so, what to do with it. Let’s spell out all the functions, noting who is doing what (forgive me if you think I’m labouring this, but looking at the detail will help us to find a better way):
So, rather than tackling only one word at a time, can we automate it? Clearly we can’t just accept Word’s suggested alternative for every single word, so let me suggest how we can do some aspects automatically, while bringing in your own intelligence and decision-making.
First, the new SpellingToolkit macro can spellcheck all the words at one go (while you go for a cup of tea!), and it will generate an alphabetic list of all the different ‘errors’. If you want to, you can even give it a ‘user dictionary’, but with SpellingToolkit this is just another Word file, which makes it easy to add, subtract, copy and paste words.
You can now look at this ‘error’ list and decide that (a) some of the words are definitely errors (i.e. every occurrence needs changing), (b) some are definitely not spelling errors – ignore them, but (c) with some words it will depend on the context.
Once you’ve made those decisions, the macro can implement them through the whole document: words (a) are all changed by global F&R, words (b) are all highlighted while words (c) are just ignored.
And if you want to, you can copy and paste these ignored words into your ‘user dictionary’ to speed things up on later jobs – that’s entirely up to you.
The macro also looks at your list of ‘words to be corrected’, and uses Word’s spellchecker to provide a suggested alternative for each one. But again, you can check each one in case it has suggested the wrong word.
So, you end up with a list words to be altered (with their alternatives) plus other words to be highlighted. The macro can then do a global F&R to implement the changes and do the highlighting, or you could use a global F&R macro such as FRedit, or MegaReplacer from Jack Lyon.
The SpellingToolkit suite (with full instructions) is available on my website, as part of my free macro book, and also in the "Latest" file – which has just the macros that have recently been developed (or improved).
If you try out this new system, do feed back to me. Does it do what you want? Could it have extra features? Could it work more smoothly? I’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave a comment below.
* If you don’t believe that Word itself uses macros, press Alt-F11 (Option-F11 on a Mac) and then run the spellcheck with F7, and you’ll see at the top of the Visual Basic window that it says ‘Running’.
About Paul Beverley
Paul has over 25 years’ experience as a technical author, publisher, proofreader and editor, and has the highest available editing qualification: LCGI (editing skills). Paul is passionate about macros and has used his programming ability to complement his writing and editing skills. Through his series of Macro Chat posts, he aims to share his knowledge and open up a dialogue about the benefits of macros to anyone working with words. Comments and questions are always welcome so please do join the discussion. No question is too basic!
Visit his business website at Archive Publications, and access his free book at Macros for Writers and Editors.
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I'm an Advanced Professional Member of the UK's national editorial society.
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Winner of the Judith Butcher Award 2017 in respect of 'highly visible contributions to the SfEP and its membership'.