PerfectIt users asked for a CMOS style sheet, and PerfectIt has delivered!
Exciting news – from 10 August 2021, PerfectIt will include a style sheet for the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) for all PerfectIt users, whether on PC or Mac. I think this addition to the program will make many PerfectIt users very happy! The style is an official product that the CMOS team has created for use in PerfectIt.
A valuable tool for editors
In case you are yet to discover PerfectIt, it is one of the best tools available for improving the speed and quality of editing in MS Word. PerfectIt arrived on the scene about 12 years ago as a consistency checker, picking up things such as ‘centre’ and ‘center’, ‘Client’ and ‘client’, ‘8’ and ‘eight’. The program flags these inconsistencies and prompts the user to decide whether to make changes and which option to choose. Over the years, PerfectIt’s capabilities and usefulness have increased. For example, the program now fixes basic formatting issues and can create lists of abbreviations and comments as quick, discrete tasks.
The power of style sheets
Using PerfectIt’s built-in style sheets takes the program to another level because it picks up not just inconsistencies in a document but also deviations from the chosen style. The program has style sheets for different spellings (eg Australian, Canadian and US) and organisations (eg European Union, United Nations and World Health Organization). All style sheets are available in both the PC and Mac versions, although anyone using the PC version of PerfectIt has the added benefit of being able to modify those style sheets or even create their own.
Online style guides
When I first started editing, looking up something in a style guide meant finding the book, consulting the table of contents or the index, then scanning a particular page to find the relevant advice. Today, editors can generally consult an online style guide, making the process much quicker and easier. CMOS was a trailblazer in this regard, with an online version first available in 2006. In Australia, we lacked a local online style guide until recently, when (like buses) three came along at once!
Now, imagine that the power of the online version of CMOS could be combined with that of PerfectIt. Well, that’s exactly what is now on offer for PerfectIt, with an integrated product that shows both the relevant advice from CMOS and the appropriate portion of the manual. This product is available to anyone who is running PerfectIt 5 (the latest version of the program) on a PC or Mac and has a subscription to CMOS Online (although only those using the PC version will be able to customise the style sheet).
PerfectIt + CMOS in action
To investigate the new feature, I ran PerfectIt on a test document, selecting the CMOS style sheet. The first thing it finds is under the ‘Hyphenation of Words’ test, and the sidebar tells me that a word appears with and without a hyphen:
If I want to know more, I simply click on ‘See more from CMOS 7.83’ and, hey presto, the relevant section of CMOS appears (I can scroll down to read the complete section):
The beauty of this system is the seamless link between PerfectIt and CMOS, which allows me to access the relevant advice without leaving my Word document.
In another example, under the test ‘Spelling Variations’, PerfectIt picks up the use of ‘focussed’ and gives this summary:
As above, I can click ‘See more from CMOS 7.1’ to see this particular entry from the manual:
You’ll notice that some of the text is red – those are active links that take me directly to the websites. Some quotes from CMOS text contain links to other parts of the manual; again, these appear in red and take you into the online CMOS.
A highly detailed style sheet
Looking behind the scenes (via the ‘Style Sheets’ section of the PerfectIt tab), we can see what makes up this CMOS style sheet. The first page explains that the style supplements the 17th edition of CMOS and is designed to help users to apply the style and learn how it works.
Clicking on ‘Always find’ in the Style Sheet Editor provides a list of the tests that PerfectIt runs for this style sheet. The list is more extensive than for previous style sheets. For example, in the case of hyphenation, the WHO style sheet has the categories ‘Hyphenation of Phrases’ and ‘Hyphenation of Words’, whereas the CMOS style sheet has those two categories plus numerous subgroups. It also has multiple subgroups under ‘Preferred Spelling’:
If we investigate one of those subgroups, ‘Hyphenation of Age Terms’, we can see where the notes that appear in the style sheet come from:
The text under ‘Instructions’ in the list above is what appears in the sidebar (directly under the name of the test) when PerfectIt is running. This level of detail makes the CMOS style sheet extremely useful.
Congratulations to the team
Having been involved with the various iterations of PerfectIt’s WHO style sheet, I’m aware of the work that’s involved in developing the program’s style sheets. I can only imagine how much harder it must have been to take this to the next level by adding links to CMOS, and I congratulate PerfectIt and CMOS on a job well done. I’d love to see this approach extended to other style guides.
PerfectIt is a fabulous tool for editors, and the addition of the CMOS style sheet has taken it to a whole new level.
I received a one-year subscription to PerfectIt and CMOS in return for writing this review. This post was originally written for the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading blog.