4 Tools for Writing and Editing Efficiency

4 Tools for Writing and Editing Efficiency blog post

Whether you are writing or editing, your productivity is aided immensely by using tools which will assist your efficiency.

Tall Tartan Talks here … I describe four software tools I use to make writing and editing quicker.

The tools will also save using the mouse and lower your risk of Repetitive Strain Syndrome (RSI).

Productivity tools

The tools I use are:

  • TextExpander
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • PerfectIt
  • Macros

There are more, of course, but four are described here for brevity.

TextExpander

TextExpander is “Customisable and shareable snippets of text that allow you to fly through repetitive tasks quickly by expanding the things you type regularly” (textexpander.com). I pay for this software, but there are other free phrase expander apps.

The software has access to your keyboard. When a preselected snippet is typed, it writes the message in full, thereby saving much time and effort. You choose your opening code.

I have a range of phrases listed, from those needed in general situations, like typing my email address, to using a phrase repeatedly in the comments of certain proofreading projects, eg ‘Insert comma’ (snippet: zic). Another favourite snippet to insert is my mobile number (snippet: z0). All my snippets begin with ‘z’ as it’s rarely used as an initial letter in my writing.

Another example is when an indie client emails to ask if I am available to proofread their book. I have a snippet that produces an email with FAQs such as deadline, genre, word count, and request for a sample (even though these points are all listed on my Contact me page as requirements when emailing).

Phrase expanders are also useful for when a diplomatic email is needed. Save the preferred wording and reduce the thinking angst, increasing efficiency.

I have saved particular snippets in specific project files in TextExpander; I keep my snippets software open when I am using them for a job, rather than trying to remember them all!

 

4 Tools for Writing and Editing Efficiency blog post

 

Keyboard shortcuts

In Microsoft Word for PC there are many keyboard shortcuts.

Some well-known ones are:

  • Ctrl+S: Save
  • Ctrl+X: Cut
  • Ctrl+C: Copy
  • Ctrl+V: Paste
  • Ctrl+Z: Undo

These shortcuts work across many programmes, not just in Microsoft Word. Ctrl+Z has helped me out of trouble on numerous occasions in numerous places!

 

PerfectIt

PerfectIt is proofreading software for professionals, purchased from Intelligent Editing. An add-on in Microsoft Word, when activated and launched, it finds inconsistencies in style preferences. All style choices can be checked or specific checks selected. It gives a summary of possible errors at the end of the check.

It now includes a link to the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), which, if you edit in US English, many editors working internationally have found invaluable.

PerfectIt is not free, but there is a discount if you are a member of the CIEP (ciep.uk). Find discounts in the Members’ area. It is worth the price for the convenience of speed and efficiency.

 

Macros

Another option for efficiency is to use macros instead of / as well as PerfectIt.

Macros are freely available from Paul Beverley’s website: www.wordmacrotools.com

A macro is some coding that tells Microsoft Word what you want to check. Paul has made 1,000s of macros over the years all for public use. I use a couple; my favourite one is DocAlyse which finds inconsistencies in styles (in the same way as PerfectIt).

 

Being more efficient

Most of my proofreading is done on PDFs as the publishing workflow of the publisher or indie author nears the end. But, for efficiency’s sake, I will convert a PDF to Word and save my copy just to be able to run PerfectIt and my favourite macros to speed up finding inconsistencies.

If you’re writing or editing, what tools do you use to be more efficient and productive? Remember to experiment with different software options for efficiency to find what speeds up tasks for you.

The idea is to be more efficient, letting the software do the ‘grunt’ work – the routine editing tasks – so that we editors, the trained experts, have more time to make specific editorial decisions. That is, prioritising the human side of editing.

4 Tools for Writing and Editing Efficiency blog post
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One Day in My Life as a Proofreader

One Day in my Life as a Proofreader blog

We all need a routine and a structure.  Here I describe one day in my life as a proofreader, editor and primary tutor.

Having a business mindset will help structure your daily routine.

Tall Tartan Talks here … Think of yourself as a business owner rather than ‘just’ a freelancer. Knowing your value and worth will help.

Morning

In winter, my routine starts at 7 am; in summer it starts at 6 am. I used to be an owl and stay up late. As I hit middle age I turned into a lark with my day starting earlier and earlier.

It also depends on when my husband gets up. He sits at the dining table eating breakfast and reading a book. I mix a mug of hot water and lemon juice, sit at the other end of the table (the end that is my ‘office’), and switch on my laptop.

He often spends the day gardening for clients and leaves the house early to cycle to work.

Emails

I find that the morning is the best time for me to respond to emails. Mostly I wake up thinking about phrasing a reply to a received email. Or, I have had a lightbulb moment about who to contact for a possible proofreading job.

I leave the emails in my draft folder, making a note to send them at 9am, which is the start of standard business hours.

Freelancers are as varied as the routines and schedules they follow. Flexibility is key as deadlines can determine the hours worked.

Tasks

At this time of the day, I may also get on with one of these tasks:

  • work on a proofreading or editing project
  • research facts for a proofreading project or blog post
  • complete a stage of a CPD training course
  • prepare a primary tuition lesson.

9:00 am: By the time Mr D has cycled off to work, I have usually done several sets of the Pomodoro timing technique. I have completed a couple of hours of work or admin. I realise that I am hungry and should eat some breakfast. A break and a change of view is needed.

I take my Android tablet through to the living room, to a soft chair, where I can sit at the window and look out into the main street. I peruse the comings and goings outside my house, as well as those onscreen in the online newspaper reviews.

9:30 am: My sons (both in their 20s) have gone about their business. They are old enough to be independent, thank goodness. I get on with the next part of the morning routine.

structure of day

10:30 am: Oldest son switches on the coffee machine for elevenses. By now, I have usually logged on to the CIEP (Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading) forums to view discussions. Since I joined the CIEP in 2017, the forums have become my online staffroom.

Social media

After coffee, I check social media and may post some content marketing, especially on Linkedin, whether that be freelancer business tips or a blog post.

If you don’t already, search for and follow my hashtags on Linkedin: #TallTartanTips and #TallTartanTalks (previously called #TallTartanTells). Then you won’t miss any of my tips.

Getting on with the day

For the next two hours, my routine continues. I may answer an email proofreading enquiry. The reply conversation goes like this:

  1. Receive an email through the contact form on my website. Currently I am getting enquiries from new, independent children’s authors. They ask if I’m available and how much I charge.
  2. I direct them towards the appropriate page of my website and give them my availability.
  3. I ask them to send the document so I can give a personalised quote. Or send, at the very least,  a 1,000 word sample from the middle of their text so I can judge how long it will take me to proofread. (The beginning and ends of the text are usually much better.)
  4. From that sample I can give them a quote. If the project needs my educational specialism, I will also factor in my 30 years of experience as a teacher. I know the value and knowledge I bring to a project.
  5. If the timing and rate suits them, I book them in by sending them a copy of my Terms & Conditions. (See templates in the Resources on my website). If the job is large (over 15,000 words) and is going to take a few days, I send an invoice for the deposit for them to secure a slot in my schedule.

Afternoon

1:00 pm: Lunch – joined by Mr D (if he is having a painting day in his garden studio). We have been enjoying some comforting homemade soup. A perk of being freelance means I can take as much or as little time for lunch as needed.

2:00 pm: Desperate for some exercise and fresh air by now, I realise that it is time to take my eyes away from the screen.

For 30 minutes, I either head to the shops in town, or I take a brisk walk in the opposite direction, propelled by my walking poles, towards the nearby countryside.

Break time with a cup of tea

3:30 pm: Time for a break to move around after another spell on the laptop, and to make a pot of tea. Fruit is the preferred snack if I’m being good. Cake on a Friday …

4:00 pm: Take part in a Zoom networking meeting. It could be CIEP Cloud Club West, or my accountability group, or another. Or it may be a tuition day when I tutor a primary-age child on Zoom.

5:00 pm: Time to wind down. I consider the achievements and the work I haven’t fitted in today. Notes are made for tomorrow, added to the e-list on my smartphone. I like the Evernote app.

Next, cooking the family dinner is a welcome distraction.

Past habits

When I was teaching primary children full-time (I Ieft the classroom in 2016), I left home at 7:30 am to be at school to prepare my classroom.

I left school each day at 6pm with a trolley-box full of the workbooks I hadn’t had time to mark after 3.15 pm.

I would continue to mark for at least a couple of hours in the evening. It became relentless after doing it for 30 years. I didn’t see much of my own children while I was busy educating the children of others.

Being the boss

When you own your business, you are your own boss. The responsibility is on you to do everything. This will either terrify you or excite you.

You and you alone are in charge of tasks like email admin, IT support (computer and website, and knowing what to do if something goes wrong or know who to ask); accounting (keeping track of income and expenses). Remember to plan time for networking, CPD and marketing. It helps if you know what to do if something goes wrong, or you know who to ask.

But I get a thrill from running my business efficiently and by doing some of the required tasks each day.

If chores get too overwhelming, break down each element of your big task into smaller chunks.

Relaxing in the evening

7:30 pm: I have a last check of my emails and social media. Then they all get switched off, and I turn to something else. Maybe a book. As I got up so early in the morning, I’m usually running out of steam by this point.

I only work evenings or weekends if I have an urgent deadline or there is a rush job. I charge accordingly for working overtime.

After decades of working an infinite number of unsociable hours, I realise the major importance of having a work–life balance. Having a sense of my self-worth is vital.

Here is the link to my blog page if you want to catch up with previous posts.

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