by Carla Douglas
What’s a macro?
Simply put, a macro is a set of instructions for your word processor—a short computer program that automatically performs repetitive tasks. You can run macros using Microsoft Word or WPS Writer (pro version), and Google Docs now features a lite version of the macro editors love, PerfectIt. Macros are easy to use and customize to your specific needs. Learn how to use a macro and try one out here.
Why should I use macros?
Macros can help you quickly accomplish the most fiddly task—or series of tasks—saving you time and improving your efficiency. Use them during the revision process for a multitude of functions, from alerting you to errors to significant text clean-up. In this post, I’ll show you how to use three different macros: one to help you spot bad writing habits, one to identify potentially embarrassing errors, and one to polish your final draft.
Needless Words Macro
We all have writing tics. Sometimes we use words as filler—they clutter our writing without carrying information or advancing the narrative, and most often these offenders are adverbs and adjectives. Removing them won’t change the meaning of your prose, but it will make your writing more clear and direct. You’ll find the NeedlessWords macro here.
Excerpt from 5 Reasons Readers Will Bail On a Book
Looking at the highlighted words, it’s easy to identify those that need to be zapped: almost and just qualify what follows and delay the point the writer is trying to make. Get rid of them. Also, have a closer look at the highlighted words that remain. Maybe there’s a more concise word you could substitute.
Tip: The NeedlessWords macro doesn’t do the thinking for you. It flags the offenders, but it’s up to you to decide if the word in question is grammatically necessary, if it could be replaced with a better word, or if it should be removed. Over time, using this macro will help you improve your writing by alerting you to the words you overuse. But don’t be too eager to hit delete—these little words can add the rhythm and tone that make your voice unique.
Foreword or forward? Sight, site or cite? Vice or vise? Are you certain of their different meanings and confident you got the right one as you hastily pounded out your first draft? Don’t worry: there’s a macro for that. The Confusables macro hunts down and highlights all instances of potentially confusable words. Later, you can review each instance word by word to ensure you haven’t made an embarrassing error. After all, you wouldn’t want your novel going out into the world while your hero was prostated with grief, would you?
Tip: The Confusables macro is a good vocabulary-building tool. It makes you think more carefully about language and writing—provided you take the time to look up definitions. This macro (and most macros) can be customized with your own word lists, too.
PerfectIt Consistency Checker
Everyone should use PerfectIt—free software that checks for consistency in
- capitalization (Government or government?)
- hyphenation (after-school or after school?)
- preferred spelling (colour or color?)
- abbreviations (UNICEF or Unicef?)
- numbers (5 students or five students?)
Try the consistency checker free as a Google docs add-on or with Office 2013. Like an extra set of eyes on your manuscript, the consistency checker alerts you to errors that otherwise might go unnoticed and it provides an extra coat of polish on your writing.
Like all tools, those I’ve described here require active participation by their users if they’re going to be effective. They won’t improve your writing—but with time and practice, the feedback they provide can help you become a better writer.