Does using Word add-ins save time?

Hilary Cadman Software 4 Comments

Remember how, decades ago, we imagined that labour-saving devices such as washing machines, driers, vacuum cleaners and dishwashers would mean we’d have lots of extra leisure time? But somehow, it didn’t work out that way. I think there’s a similar situation in editing, in that we now have lots of different tools to make editing more efficient, yet editing seems to take just as long.

I was pondering this situation as I prepared to give a workshop last week at the Australasian Medical Writers Association (AMWA) conference in Melbourne. The workshop focused on various tools and add-ins for use with MS Word (PerfectIt, Editor’s Toolkit, ReferenceChecker and PhraseExpress), the quick access toolbar, keyboard shortcuts, navigation with the ‘Select Browse Object‘ button, and use of styles and templates.

Perhaps the answer to the conundrum is right there, in the array of different software and related expertise needed to do a good job. When editors worked on hard copy, their input was limited to marking up changes. However, now that we mostly edit onscreen, we can provide so much more: sophisticated page layout; automated numbering of headings, figures and tables; references that can be changed from number to author-date style at the touch of a button; documents that work in print and onscreen; and so on. In turn, the expectations of what the editor will provide have increased, particularly now that budgets are often tight and traditional roles of proofreaders and typesetters have all but disappeared.

Do tools and programs such as Word make the editor’s job easier or are they just a way to keep up with client expectations, what do you think?

Hilary CadmanDoes using Word add-ins save time?

Comments 4

  1. Karin

    Hi Hilary – food for thought indeed! I was recently reminded how much I take the ease and convenience of technology for granted, when a client asked me to edit on hard copy using handwritten symbols rather than in Word. I estimate it took about 50% longer than it would have done if I’d been able to edit on screen and use my old friend PerfectIt. The experience reminded me to be grateful for all the magic electronic tools I usually use …

    Cheers, Karin (in Canberra)

  2. ozeditor

    Hi Karin, interesting to hear that there are still clients out there who want editing done on hard copy. I keep learning more about PerfectIt — I just shared a customised PerfectIt style sheet with a colleague and was interested to see that the export can be set to allow the style sheet to be edited by the recipient or not.

  3. Ruth

    I think very high expectations are part of the problem – and also that tight budgets are usually accompanied by tight timelines. I sometimes forget that every project should start with a good discussion with the client to clarify expectations about what editing involves and how long it takes. Many people have little appreciation of how time consuming it can be. In a previous role I was usually the default ‘in-house editor’ – which often meant receiving a 150-page report two hours before the deadline (‘so you just edit it and then we’ll send it’). This is okay when the expectation is a once-over with PerfectIt, fixing the headling levels so the TOC works, and skimming for mysteriously unfinished sentences. But not okay when people get grumpy because you missed a typo on page 20!

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