Tag Archives: proofreaders

Computer tools for proofreaders

Computer tools for proofreaders

Computer tools for proofreadersThanks to continuing developments in computer technology, there are more and more tools available for editors, but is there any help for proofreaders? The short answer is yes. To start with, there are tools for on-screen mark-up of PDFs, but they only give you a more efficient ‘pen’ to put your mark-up on the ‘paper’. To see how computers can help more fundamentally, we need to think about what you, as a proofreader, actually do.

Obviously, you have to read every word of the text, to check that it conveys the author’s meaning properly. But you also have to watch out for all sorts of other things: spelling, punctuation, hyphenation, layout glitches, numbering, etc. And that’s just the words – there are also figures, pictures, tables, etc. to check.

You have a lot to think about as you read, and you can easily be distracted from the meaning of the text by the smaller, mechanical changes needed, or you can miss some of the mechanical changes while concentrating on the meaning. This is where using computer tools can help, because they are good at dealing with the routine changes so that you can concentrate on the communication of the author’s ideas. You can rely on the computer, knowing that it will work consistently, without being distracted by the phone or by the cat walking across your keyboard.

By ‘computer tools’ I’m talking about powerful programs that you can buy, such as PerfectIt, as well as the sort of pre-programmed macros that I use. Now, to many people a ‘macro’ is just ‘a shortcut to a task you do repeatedly’, to quote one website, but pre-programmed macros are far more powerful and versatile than that.

There are plenty of pre-programmed macros available, and you even can tailor them to your own way of working with very little programming knowledge – Jack Lyon’s Macro Cookbook is a very useful resource.

So, the main way that computer tools help me in proofreading is by analysing the text as a whole and alerting me to issues of (in)consistency, and they do so before I start to read. Am I the only person to have made a hyphenation decision (say, changing ‘non-linear’ to ‘nonlinear’) based on Chapters 1 and 2, only to find that Chapters 3 to 12 are consistently the other way round? What a waste of time! Do I undo my changes in Chapters 1 and 2, or persist in deleting all the hyphens from ‘non-linear’?

Now, I can’t tell you the ‘best’ way to use computer tools, because every job is different; proofreaders are all different too, in the way they like to work. And I certainly can’t give you unbiased advice, because the only tools I use are my own home-grown macros, but I hope I can give you an idea of what’s possible. Here are some areas where macros can provide aids to consistency – the macro names in italic will allow you to find details of them in my free book, Macros for Writers, Editors and Proofreaders:

• Hyphenation – HyphenAlyse provides a list of all the hyphenated words (or potentially hyphenated words, e.g. nonlinear) in a document, showing how often they appear as a hyphenated word, two words, or one word (e.g. sea-bed, sea bed or seabed).

• Proper nouns – ProperNounAlyse creates a list of proper noun pairs that could possibly be variant spellings of one another, and how often each occurs, e.g. Brinkman (3), Brinkmann (1).

• Spelling – With SpellingToolkit, you can create a copy of the document (in Word) with all the likely misspellings highlighted, and IStoIZ or IZtoIS will indicate all the -is/-iz inconsistencies, e.g. organise/organize.

• Other inconsistencies – DocAlyse creates a list of the frequency of other issues, such as inconsistencies in capitalisation, alternative spellings, and serial (or not) commas.

Other tools that can be used for proofreading include MatchBrackets, MatchSingleQuotes, MatchDoubleQuotes and AuthorDateFormatter.

Using these tools does take time and effort – both in learning how to do it, and also in implementing them on a given job – so only you can decide if it’s worthwhile. Certainly, the longer the job, the bigger the pay-back from the time spent in preparation.

But, regardless of the time saved, if these tools enable you to produce a better standard of work, it seems to me to be a good investment.

Members and associates of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) can find out more about macros on the SfEP discussion forums.

Which computer tools do you find most useful when proofreading?

Paul Beverley

Paul Beverley

At 65, Paul Beverley doesn’t want to retire – he finds freelance proofreading and editing far too enjoyable. He loves polishing text for optimum communication, and finds it very satisfying to use his programming skills to write macros that increase his own and other people’s efficiency and effectiveness. As an OAP with government support he can also cherry-pick his jobs – a great privilege.

 

Proofread by Jane Hammett, an advanced member of the SfEP.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.

A copy of Martin Chuzzlewit before being restored by Exeter Bookbinders

SfEP Devon group discovers the beauty of bookbinding

Chaim Ebanks from Exeter Bookbinders demonstrates bookbinding to the Devon SfEP group

Chaim Ebanks from Exeter Bookbinders

The beauty of a good piece of writing is in its content and style, which is what the editor and proofreader will tend to focus on. But hard-copy books are about more than cleverly written prose – they can often be works of art in their own right. Books can engage all our senses: the heady smell when you enter a bookshop; the sound of the paper as you turn a page; the salt you can almost taste on your lips as you read a scene depicting a windswept beach; and the pleasure that courses through your veins as you caress that dog-eared copy of your favourite novel.

Sadly, despite lots of TLC, our most treasured books can become more than a bit dog-eared. And that’s where expert bookbinders can come to the rescue, restoring our special books to their former glory.

After a fascinating session on bookbinding at last year’s SfEP conference, the SfEP Devon group recently invited Chaim Ebanks from Exeter Bookbinders to speak at one of its regular meetings in Exeter. Armed with a bone folder, needle and waxed thread, goatskin, and two Marmite jars containing mysterious ingredients (definitely not what was on the label), Chaim set about demonstrating the ancient art of bookbinding.

The session began with a brief history of writing systems covering soft clay tablets, the introduction of scrolls, the advent of paper and the use of wax tablets.

Chaim then set about demonstrating how to bind a book. The process involves sewing signatures – the folded papers that will become sections of pages – together with waxed thread before adding open-weave calico tapes to cover the sewing and strengthen the spine. The spine is then glued with polyvinyl acetate (one of the mysterious concoctions in Ebanks’s Marmite jars). Once the glue has dried, endpapers are added to the front and back and the book is covered with goatskin. The book is then placed in a clamp overnight to exclude any excess air and ensure a tight finish. The bone folder (made of whalebone) is used throughout the process to eliminate any creases or baggy edges.

Having demonstrated how to bind a book, Chaim then set to work adapting the process to restore a rather worn-out hardback copy of Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit. The book had definitely seen better days and its cover was completely detached.

A copy of Martin Chuzzlewit before being restored by Exeter Bookbinders

Before

However, after gently dismantling the cover and spine, Chaim added a new cover and endpapers before applying liberal amounts of bookbinders’ paste (the other mysterious concoction in his Marmite jars) to reveal a miraculously rejuvenated book.

 

The restored volume of Martin Chuzzlewit after Chaim Ebanks of Exeter Bookbinders rebound the book.

After

It still has the character of an old book, its pages marked with foxing (browned due to the ferrous oxidisation of the acid in the paper), but now has a polished cover and gleaming name plate. The book is ready to be cherished for many years to come.

 

As with many SfEP local groups, the session ended with a chance to enjoy tea and cake and chat to other proofreaders and editors in the area. The Devon SfEP group are grateful to Alison Shakspeare and Rosalind Davies for organising the event and to Chaim Ebanks for taking the time to share his knowledge and expertise with them. Chaim and his colleagues at Exeter Bookbinders are happy to speak at events; you can contact them via the Exeter Bookbinders website.

There are many local SfEP groups throughout the UK and beyond – there is even an international group. Meetings vary from informal gatherings over tea or dinner to organised events such as the bookbinding talk. To find out more about what’s going on near you, visit the local groups page on the SfEP website.

Joanna Bowery social media manager at the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP)

Joanna Bowery

Joanna Bowery is the SfEP social media manager and a member of the Devon SfEP group. As well as looking after the SfEP’s Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and the SfEP blog, she is a freelance marketing and PR consultant operating as Cosmic Frog. Jo is an associate of the SfEP and a Chartered Marketer. In her spare time, Jo enjoys rugby (although she has retired from playing) and running.

 

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP.