Automating Your Document Editing

by Rob

If you write a masterpiece, and publish it yourself, you may find, after printing, that there are a number of errors which have not been picked up. You could have paid an editor, who has pointed all the original problems out, but after you've put right all the suggestions, you have probably introduced a new batch of errors. What next? Do you pay the editor to go through it again, correct those and then with new errors...? You will never get it published, and spend a fortune.
However, there are simple ways (and one really complicated one) to go through your work and catch out most of those unavoidable errors. The following checklist will help you to cut out nearly all of those. Feel free to print out the page, and tick the boxes as you go through each stage of the checks. As most people use Microsoft Word, the guide is specifically geared to those documents.

Spelling

Strange though this may seem, especially as you've already been through it for errors, odd characters and punctuation can sneak into your work after you've re-edited it.
To find these errors, go to the View tab, select Zoom, and then the Many Pages option. You can then set up to view six pages at a time.
As you step through your entire work using the page up and page down keys, any spelling errors will be underlined in red, and formatting or wrong word errors will be in blue. You can correct these as you go.

Spaces

Extra spaces can easily sneak into your text. In the top right of the Word home page, you will find the Replace option. This is the most useful tool for editing. In the Find What box, you place the search text, and in the Replace With, the correction.

   Normal Text
Find What: Type the space bar twice. Replace With: Type the space bar once.
Click the Find Next box and when it finds double spacing, click Replace.
Repeat until you've been through the whole document. Then do the whole thing over again and again until you get no errors.

   Paragraphs: You need to remove any extra single spaces at the beginning of a new line, or at the end of one
Find What: Space ^P Replace with: ^P (Note where it says 'space', I mean press the space bar once. Note there is no extra space between ^P and the space to search for. You will find the ^ symbol above the #6 key.
Find What: ^P Space Replace with: ^P
Repeat both until you get no errors.
Find What: Space Fullstop. Replace with: Fullstop.
Find What: Space Comma. Replace with: Comma

Formatting

Ideally, this should be done after all the other checks have been run, but as the last one is complicated, you may want to omit it and trust to a proof-reading friend to track down all the errors. Then follow these instructions:
View your document in Zoom mode as detailed above.
Step through all the pages again, but this time look for instances where a paragraph overlaps on to a new page with perhaps one or two words. If you find this has happened, right click on the offending paragraph, select the Line and Page breaks tab, and put a tick in Widow/Orphan Control. This will reorganise it so that the paragraph spreads over the two pages properly. Alternatively, follow the instructions below, for each page that has the overlap.
Step through the pages again, looking for chapters which end with only a few lines on a new page. Go backwards from there, and reword sentences that have a single word on a new line, so that they are shorter. This will remove a spare line, and pull the chapter end back. Repeat until you have lost that extra page.
Note that if you make sure your Normal Style is set to automatically have the Widow/Orphan control on, you won't have this problem, BUT you will have many more pages than you need, and you will find some pages that have great blank spaces at the end. My recommendation is to turn this off for your Normal Style, and do the adjustments yourself. For an 80k word novel, you may be able to reduce its length by over 20 pages. This all brings the printing costs down, and therefore increases your profits.

Quotation Marks

It is very easy to miss these beasts either at the beginning of speech, or at the end, and sometimes after extensive edits at the end of normal text.
The following code assumes you are using the double quotes for speech, and that you are using 'smart' quotes, which are the curly ones that point left and right, depending on whether it is the beginning or end of a quotation.
To automate the search for these, you need to create a macro. This may be a bit much for most folks, but if you can manage, it's on the Developer tab in Word. This is not normally visible, so follow the instructions at this link in order to set it up.
Once there, follow the instructions on this page to create a new macro. You need to start recording, press the M key, and then stop recording.
This creates a macro placeholder, which will insert an M every time you run it.
Now go to the Developer tab, choose Macros, and then edit the M Macro you have just created. Overwrite the whole lot with the code in the resource file, Quotescheck.txt
Close the code windows.
When your document is ready, run the Quotescheck macro, and it will step through your document, checking every quotation mark. This will take some considerable time, depending on your rig, so nip out and make a coffee while it runs. When complete, you will find the error text highlighted in yellow. The best way to view is in the Zoom mode as detailed in Spelling.
The actual error will be either above or below that text by one or two paragraphs, depending on the error. You can then correct each problem, and delete the error text block.