When they were first brought out, ‘labour-saving devices’ such as washing machines, dryers, vacuum cleaners and dishwashers were sold as great time-savers. Sadly, the promised additional leisure time has simply been absorbed into yet more work. It seems to be the same with editing. We now have a host of different tools, including various MS Word add-ins, to make editing more efficient, yet the process of editing seems to take just as long as it used to.
Are manual editing techniques a thing of the past?
Before the days of Microsoft Word add-ins and tools, editing was an activity that required long hours of focus
and repetitive actions, checking and checking again for accuracy, going back and forth between the reference sources and the main document and so on. It’s not surprising that we’ve turned to new tools and technology to ease the load on our brains.
Microsoft Word’s tools can make editing faster
Some of the most useful MS word tools for editors are:
- keyboard shortcuts, which avoid the need to continually switch between mouse and keyboard operations
- the Quick Access Toolbar, which can be customised, making it easy to access your favourite Word tools
- styles and templates, which make it easy to create a table of contents, move text, or see the document structure.
It’s easy to forget how long it used to take to perform all these functions manually.
Microsoft Word add-ins can save time and improve quality
When you find the built-in Microsoft Word tools don’t quite hit the mark, it’s worth investigating the many Microsoft Word add-ins. My favourites are PerfectIt, Editor’s Toolkit, PhraseExpress (which actually works across all programs) and EndNote.
Editors can use these add-ins to both save time and create a better end product.
Do MS Word add-ins really save time?
There’s no easy answer to this question. Although the MS Word tools and add-ins can speed up your work and make it easier to do a great job, client expectations have increased, so the editor is expected to do more. In the same way that washing machines have given us the expectation that we can have clean clothes every day (or several times a day), onscreen editing has meant that clients now expect things like sophisticated page layout, automated numbering (e.g. for headings, figures and tables), and the ability to make major changes quickly and accurately.
Have MS Word tools and add-ins made the editor’s job quicker and easier, or have they just changed the nature of the work as client expectations increase? What do you think?