A note from Louise: I'm delighted to welcome my colleague and fellow SfEP member Paul Beverley to this latest Spotlight feature on The Parlour. Paul is a freelance proofreader and editor who specializes in technical material. He is the author of Macros for Editors and Proofreaders, a wonderful resource packed with nearly 400 macros, all freely available to anyone. You can contact him by email, on his Archive Publications website or via his SfEP Directory listing.
How do you react when a fellow editor or proofreader mentions the word "macros"? If your response is either "too technical for me" or "not worth the effort" then please read on ...
What is a macro?
For many of us – including me – our introduction to macros (September 2007, for me) was being taught how to record them. I found it a little difficult to get hold of (and I’m reasonably technical), and the jobs that I could do with the macros so produced didn’t seem to be worth the effort. Use it or lose it? I lost it!
But then I had a job I wanted to do that I thought a more complex macro could handle, and a friend who knew about macros programmed it for me; once I had a really useful macro, I was motivated to use them more and more.
So if someone has given you the impression that a macro is "something you record that will allow you to do a job repeatedly", then you’ve been sold very, very short. It’s like asking whether a "vehicle" is a useful thing, and being told that a vehicle is "a two-wheeled device with a saddle and pedals". There are a thousand and one different types of vehicle, and they can be used for ten thousand and one different jobs. So with macros.
But are they too technical?
OK, I admit that there is a learning curve. Yes, you have to make the effort to learn how to load and use macros (notice that I don’t say "to program macros", let alone to record one), but it’s not that difficult, and if you get a feel for just how much macros can help you, you’ll realize that it really is worth climbing the curve.
And there is help out there. I’ve written a book about macros and, at the beginning, I’ve tried to give a gentle and careful introduction to what a macro is, what sort of things it can do, how to put one in your computer, and how to use it. And the book is free – click here for your copy.
So what do they do?
How long have you got? How much space will Louise allow me? My book has 400+ different macros in it!
Let’s look at one scenario and see how macros can help – I’ve deliberately chosen an example that applies equally to proofreaders as to editors.
You’ve just received a new book to edit or proofread (and I’m assuming here that if you’re reading on paper, you have at least got a PDF to hand). So what information would help you to do a really good job (and not take loads of time over it)? You’ve got a lot of questions to answer such as UK/US and is/iz spelling, serial comma or not, single/double quotes, words/figures for numbers, punctuation of ie/etc/et al/people’s initials/numbers with units, C/chapter, S/section, F/fig,/F/figure, etc. And that’s before we start thinking about the use of alternative spellings: co-oper/cooper, focussing/focusing, spelt/spelled. And what about the use of hyphenation?
I won’t go into details but my macros DocAlyse, HyphenAlyse, SpellAlyse, UKUScount, IZIScount and ProperNounAlyse will each look at different aspects of your book and inform you about what the author has done. Yes, your brief will tell you about certain things that you must impose, but where there’s no guidance given, isn’t it best to go with what the author has done as a majority? How many times have I made a style decision on the basis of chapters 1 to 3 only to realize by chapter 5/6 that, in chapters 4 to 20, the author has used exactly the opposite convention?! I’m sure you know that sickening feeling when you realize your mistake and the time it’s going to take to rectify it.
And so far I’ve only mentioned six of the 370 macros.
Forgive me if I blow my own trumpet a tad, but I believe that the vast range of macros that I’ve provided – for free – can completely change your work effectiveness. Since 2007, my average hourly rate (since I always try to insist on working for a fixed fee) has increased by over 40 per cent. OK, that’s partly experience and partly being able to pick and choose which jobs I take on, but if I suddenly had, for some reason, to stop using macros, the consistency of my work would drop, and my average earning rate would drop, too. And since I went freelance, I have never missed a client’s deadline.
At the beginning of my book I’ve tried to give an overview of the different sorts of macros available, and have tried to order the book in a vaguely logical way, but it’s difficult for the macro newbie to know what’s worth using. The book isn’t exactly what you would call "bedtime reading", so your best bet is probably to ask other people which macros they find are the biggest time-savers – I know that for Louise it’s my reference citation checking system, CiteCheck, which she uses for proofs where the short title system is in place.
When I’m proofreading, the macros mentioned above are the ones that increase my efficiency most, but when I’m editing, it has to be FRedit. This is not just a macro, but a whole new concept in automating the editing process – but that’s another whole story!
Why not start the ball rolling by telling us what your favourite is?
Case study: using macros to prepare for book work
In case it’s of any use to anyone, here’s what I do as I start a new book job. I claim no more than that this is what I find useful. This is all investigative work – no changes are made to the text in any of the following macros.
Copyright 2012 Paul Beverley
'Louise uses her expertise to hone a story until it's razor sharp, while still allowing the author’s voice to remain dominant.'
'I wholeheartedly recommend her services ... Just don’t hire her when I need her.'
J B Turner
'Sincere thanks for a beautiful and elegant piece of work. First class.'
'What makes her stand out and shine is her ability to immerse herself in your story.'
'A million thanks – your mark-up is perfect, as always.'
All text on The Editing Blog and on the other pages of this website (unless indicated otherwise) is in copyright © 2011–20 Louise Harnby.