Why Editors Use Word—Authors Can Harness Word’s Powers, Too!

By Corina Koch MacLeod

Authors can use a variety of tools for the writing and publishing process. In Idea to Ebook: How to Write a Quality Book Fast, I describe over thirty tools that authors can use, and some of them may even make the writing and publishing process more efficient.

Will one tool do it all?

As much as I wish there were one tool for the entire publishing process (Scrivener comes pretty close to this ideal), sometimes different tools make sense for different stages of the publishing process.

Take editing, for example.

If, during the publishing process, you decide that you want to have your book professionally edited, there is a very good chance that Microsoft Word will be your editor’s tool of choice.


Quite simply, Microsoft Word helps editors to do their work better and faster.

So, how does Word accomplish that?

Word’s Built-in Functions

Word has some pretty powerful built-in functions that can help editors hunt down errors efficiently:

Learning to use any of Word’s built-in functions can save an editor loads of time.

Tools that Work With Word

Word also works well with some pretty powerful add-ins/ macros–tiny software programs that execute specific tasks and automate a variety of editing tasks. But it’s not just about automation, its about accuracy, too. These tools can help editors catch things they’d otherwise miss.

Here is a small sample of editing macros that have been designed to be used with Word:

  • CrossEyes–A “reveal codes” type tool that helps you see the formatting that lurks in a document’s background. This is particularly helpful for ebook formatting.
  • FileCleaner–For quick document clean-up
  • Macros for Writers and Editors (free)–A variety of macros designed to handle all sorts of editing challenges. FRedit is one worth trying.
  • Perfect It–A consistency checker
  • Reference Checker–Checks in-text citations against references (for specific style guides)

Writers can use Word’s built-in functions, macros, and add-ins, too. There’s a learning curve involved with each tool, but if you have the time and interest to learn something new, these tools can help you save on editing costs later.

Note: if you ask your editor to edit your manuscript in software that doesn’t have or allow for the use of these tools, your editor will take longer to complete the job. Keep that in mind if you’re paying your editor by the hour.

Try an Editing Add-on

Daniel Heumann’s consistency checker, PerfectIt, is my all-time favourite editing tool. The best way to understand what a consistency checker can do is to just give it a try. PerfectIt works as a Microsoft Word add-in, but you can try a lite version of this tool, called Consistency Checker, using Google Docs. If you have a gmail account, you’ll have access to Google Docs.

Consistency Checker Add-on for Google Docs

  1. Take a section of a document that you’ve been working on and paste it into Google Docs.
  2. Click on the Add-ons tab in Google Docs, click on Get add-ons and search for the Consistency Checker by PerfectIt. Download the add-on.
  3. Open the Consistency Checker by once again clicking on the Add-ons tab in Google Docs. The Consistency Checker should now be listed. Click Open and then click Scan. Consistency Checker will check for:
  • abbreviations in two forms (US vs. U.S.)
  • common typos (teh vs. the)
  • contractions (contractions aren’t used in all kinds of writing)
  • hyphenation of words (in-line vs. in line)
  • numbers in sentences (spelled out or numerals?)
  • spelling variations (colour or color)

    Consistency Checker will identify inconsistencies in your writing so you can fix them. If you spelled a word differently in two places (e.g. colour vs. color – both correct, depending on whether you’re following Canadian or American spelling), this tool will find the spelling variations. It finds common typos, too.

    The tool is designed to spot certain inconsistencies, but it’s up to you to fix them. To fix them, you need to know what to do with the information that Consistency Checker flags. To get the most out of this tool, you may need to consult a style guide and find out how to use hyphens correctly, for example. You may need to look up the rules for abbreviations and numbers in sentences. If looking things up in style guides is not your thing, an editor will know what to do and can fix things for you.

    In sum, editors use Word because it helps them to do their best job for you, the author. And I suspect that editors will continue to use Word until other tools* can rival Word’s capabilities.

    A final note: many of the macros listed in this post are designed for Word for Windows and are not available for Mac users. Mac users can write their own macros, though, and run Parallels Desktop so that they can make use of commercially available macros for Word.

    *I’m currently checking out one tool that may be able to do much of what Word can do. Stay posted for details.

    Image by takomabibelot

    How to Format Your Book the Simple Way: A Word-to-Ebook Cheat Sheet
    How to Make Word Behave Like Scrivener
    New Options for Designing Your Ebook
    The 4 Levels of Editing Explained: Which Service Does Your Book Need?

    2 thoughts on “Why Editors Use Word—Authors Can Harness Word’s Powers, Too!

    1. Wow, even though I’ve written all of my books in Word, it’s amazing how much of it I have no clue about. I’d still like to know a simple way to disable hidden bookmarks for all documents.

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