Editors’ show and tell: time-saving tips and tricks

We kicked off the 2013–2014 EAC-BC meeting season last evening with a packed house and an editors’ show and tell of some of our favourite time-savers. Here’s a summary*:

Fact checking

  • Frances Peck showed us CanLII, the Canadian Legal Information Institute database, which is handy if you need to work with a document that has legal citations or references to acts and regulations. The searchable database covers both federal and provincial case law and has up-to-date wording of legislation. The University of Victoria Libraries vouch for the database’s reliability.
  • I mentioned the Library of Congress Authorities as a reliable place to check names.
  • Lana Okerlund told us about GeoBC for fact checking B.C. place names.
  • Naomi Pauls and Jennifer Getsinger both mentioned the Canadian Geographical Names Data Base for place names within Canada.
  • I also told the crowd about SearchOpener, which I’d mentioned in a previous post. The tool lets you perform multiple Google searches at once—a boon for checking fact-heavy texts.

Notes and bibliography

  • Stef Alexandru told us about RefWorks and Zotero, which are bibliographic management programs. The former costs $100 (USD), whereas the latter is free. In both of these programs, you can enter all of your bibliographic information, and it produces a bibliography in the style (e.g., Chicago) that you want.
  • Microsoft Word’s bibliography tool does the same thing (under “Manage Sources”)

The trick to all of these programs, though, is that you would have had to work with your client or author early enough in the writing process for them to have used them from the outset. Nobody knew of any specific tricks for streamlining the editing of notes and bibliographies, although Margaret Shaw later mentioned a guest article on Louise Harnby’s blog by the developer of EditTools, Richard Adin, in which he writes:

The books I work on often have reference lists of several hundred entries. Using the Journals macro, I can check and correct most of the entries in the list automatically. I once timed it and found that I can check about 600 references in approximately 15 minutes; it used to take me hours, especially if I had to look up obscure and rarely cited journal names. Now I look them up once, enter them in the dataset, and move on.

  • For fact checking bibliographical information, one suggestion was to use WorldCat.

Document cleanup

  • Jack Lyon’s Editorium has a FileCleaner Word add-on that helps with a lot of common search-and-replace cleanup steps. NoteStripper may also help you prepare a file for design if the designer doesn’t want embedded footnotes or endnotes.
  • Grace Yaginuma told us how to strip all hyperlinks from your file by selecting all (Ctrl + A) and then using Ctrl + Shift + F9.
  • To remove formatting from text on the clipboard, suggested apps include Plain Clip and Format Match.

Ensuring consistency

  • Nobody in the room had tried PerfectIt, but there seemed to be positive views of it on EAC’s listserv. It catches consistency errors that Word’s spelling and grammar checkers miss, including hyphenation, capitalization, and treatment of numbers. You can also attach specific dictionaries or style sheets to it.

Author correspondence and queries

  • Theresa Best keeps a series of boilerplate emails in her Drafts folder; another suggestion was to have boilerplate email text as signature files.
  • For queries that you use again and again, consider adding it as an AutoCorrect entry, a trick I use all the time and saves me countless keystrokes. Store longer pieces of boilerplate text as AutoText.


  • Naomi Pauls and Theresa Best talked about the utility of checklists. I concur!

Structural editing

  • A few people in the audience mentioned that a surprising number of editors don’t know about using Outline View or Navigation Pane in Microsoft Word to do outlining and structural editing.
  • One person said Scrivener is a fantastic tool for easily moving large chunks of text around and other aspects of structural editing.

Business administration

  • Janet Love Morrison uses Billings for time tracking and invoicing, and she highly recommends it. Other options recommended include iBiz and FreshBooks. (Someone also mentioned Goggle as a time tracker, but I can’t find anything about it. Can anyone help?)
  • Theresa Best has just begun using Tom’s Planner, which she described as a free and intuitive project-management program.
  • Peter Moskos mentioned that years ago, his firm had invested in FastTrack Schedule, which cost a few hundred dollars but, he said, was worth every penny, especially for creating schedules for proposals.
  • One recommended scheduling app for arranging meetings is Doodle.com.

Editors’ wish list

  • Naomi Pauls said that she’d like to see a style sheet app that lets you choose style options easily rather than having to key them in. (Being able to have your word process0r reference it while checking the document would be a plus.)
  • Someone else proposed a resource that would be a kind of cheat sheet to summarize the main differences between the major style guides, to make it easier to jump from one to another when working on different projects.

Thanks to everyone who came out to the meeting and especially those who shared their tips and tricks!

*Although I knew some names at the meeting, I didn’t catch all of the names of the contributors (or I’d forgotten who’d said what). If you see an entry here and thought, “Hey—that’s me!” please send me a note, and I’ll be happy to add your name.

17 thoughts on “Editors’ show and tell: time-saving tips and tricks”

  1. Iva:

    Wednesday night’s program was terrific and your summary of the tips here is a very useful resource. Perhaps it could listed in the resources on the editors.ca website. Well done, Iva.


  2. The Kingston twig (EAC chapter) periodically compares style guides together and is compiling a spreadsheet of differences in Google Drive. I’ll send you a link if you guys want to collaborate.
    I have used PerfectIt (with the new plug-ins for CanOx and Canadian Style) and was amazed by it. Not using it is wasting time, IMHO.
    You’ve amasses excellent tips here. The one other one our twig came up with was viewing one document in two windows. Under Word’s Window menu, select New Window. Better than split screen because it’s full size.

    1. That spreadsheet sounds fantastic, Adrienne! Collaboration is a great idea; I’ll pass along your message to the BC branch exec to see if anyone is able to coordinate with you.

  3. Just wanted to second Adrienne’s comment about PerfectIt. I’m a long-time user and can’t recommend it highly enough.

    I also find working with two screens a huge time-saver as it reduces toggling time when I want quick access to two files (e.g. if I’m proofreading on PDF but want a Word-base style sheet/brief open at the same time).

    ReferenceChecker (at http://www.goodcitations.com/) is my other time-saving recommendation for editors and proofreaders. It’s a dream of a macro, really easy to install and use (in Word), and only costs £50 for a single licence. Definitely one of my top resources!

    Last one: for proofreading PDFs, try using custom stamps. I feel that using these in conjunction with the built-in comment and markup tools in Acrobat or PDF-XChange can improve efficiency. There’s info on The Proofreader’s Parlour at http://www.louiseharnbyproofreader.com/4/post/2012/08/roundup-pdf-proofreading-stamps-quick-access-links.html.

      Yes. Of course. Listen to Louise. Kind of take my two screens for granted, but remember how indispensable they are whenever I’m working away from my desk.

      Stamps are great for PDF markup, even if you use a stylus to write proofers marks, stamps for marginal notes are quicker and tidier. Louise’s stamp set is valuable. I even have a stamp to apply my signature.

  4. I use PerfectIt and FileCleaner on every project: my efficiency would be _far_ less without them. I am also glad to have my custom stamps for editing Acrobat files. I have two large screens on my main desk, and I sometime fire up my laptop on a stand-up desk as well. Extra screen “real estate” is a great timesaver. With regard to style guide comparisons: the idea is by no means new. Years ago, I bought a copy of _The Broadview Guide to Writing_ by Doug Babington (Broadview Press: 2001) specifically because it contained good summaries of MLA, APA, Chicago and CBE (now CSE) styles. More recent comparisons are probably out there….

  5. Hi Ava,

    Great blog. Great post. Thanks for sharing. I have just moved from creating documents and editing in Word to inDesign. Do you or anyone have tips for editing in inDesign. Are there any software and apps that can help speed up my work?


    1. Hi, Mislyn. I’ve become too accustomed to the shortcuts and features in Word (in fact, I teach a course about them) that I don’t see myself switching to editing in InDesign anytime soon, which means that I don’t have much advice! InDesign has a few features that are similar to those in Word and that would help you edit—such as GREP, which is like using Wildcards in Word, and revision tracking. I guess the only thing I could suggest is to become familiar with any of the functions that can help you automate mechanical editing tasks and save you keystrokes. Good luck with it! For now, I’m sticking with Word…

      1. Thanks for the tips. I really like word, and I’m quite competent with it; but my boss wants us to switch. I’m really not happy! I guess I’ll just have to play with it and see what works.

  6. Hi Iva,
    We met at the EAC June conference, in the unconference session. I’m interested in what you say about using Autocorrect and Autotext for boilerplate text, and in the course you teach in Word shortcuts. Is there an online reference you could point me to that explains these? Too bad you’re so far away! We’re having a talk in November on Word shortcuts as part of the speaker series of the brand-spanking-new Newfoundland twig.

    1. Hi Claire,

      I’d recommend reading Hilary Powers’s Making Word Work for You, which has a good overview of what you can do with AutoCorrect and AutoText, among other great advice.

      I don’t know of any programs comparable to PerfectIt for Macs, but I know that some editors use Parallels so that they can use PC-specific software. Now that Word 2013 is for both platforms (I haven’t played around with it much), I wonder if some of the add-ons might be usable for Macs as well. Sorry I can’t give a more definite answer for this one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *