Tiny macros

Post by Stephen Cashmore

If I say the word ‘macro’, what effect does it have on you? Do you think, ‘Let’s change the subject and move on?’ Do you run screaming from the room? Do you perhaps think, ‘Yes, yes, they can be useful sometimes; I’ve downloaded a few. But let’s not get carried away by them.’?

If you are a serious editor and one of these descriptions fits you, I suggest you brace yourself and think again. Macros can be useful ALL THE TIME.

They don’t have to be gigantic, use once-in-an-edit affairs. They can be tiny little constructions that can save you time simply because they crop up time and time again. They can be devised specifically for the job at hand. If you find yourself doing the same thing – typing the same keystrokes – over and over and over again, the chances are that a simple macro will do the job for you.

Let me give you some examples.

In a novel I was editing recently, the author had a terrible habit of using comma splices.

The sun shone through the window, he decided to get up and do some editing.

Time and time again. Gah.

Some were best dealt with by inserting ’and’ or suchlike, but most needed a new sentence. Delete comma. Full point. Skip a space. Delete small letter. Replace with capital letter. Again and again. You can see what’s coming. I recorded a simple macro that did all this with one click. What a relief.

The same author continually muddled the punctuation at the end of dialogue.

‘I think this should be a comma.’ He said.

I imagine the author thought the dialogue needed a full stop as it’s a complete sentence, and Word did the rest. So, a simple macro to do the opposite of the previous one, only skipping an extra space (because of the quote mark). By the time I’d got about a quarter of the way through the edit, I had a little row of tiny macros that speeded up my working enormously.

How about this, from a maths book?


Full marks, I hear you say. The trouble is, the publisher wanted thin spaces marked with red hashes around all operands such as minus sign, equals sign, plus sign and so forth. So I used the FRedit macro do to that for me and it save me hours and hours of work. But it also did this:


Almost perfect, but those two initial hashes aren’t needed. So I recorded a tiny macro to do <delete><skip space><delete> and that speeded up all these problems for me, including some that I hadn’t thought of.  I also wrote a tiny macro that surrounded a character with red hashes, for instances that I hadn’t thought of when I made up my FRedit script. And I recorded a macro that changed the number of a question from

12. Question


12             Question

and I …

Well, I’m sure you get the idea. Write a tiny macro for keystrokes that you find yourself doing over and over again, and before you know it you’ll have a little group of them that will, believe me, save you both a lot of time and your sanity.


Stephen is an advanced member of the SfEP who lives in Ayr on the west coast of Scotland. He is an ex-teacher, ex-accountant, ex-bridge player and ex-auditor, but threw all that over to become an editor after taking early retirement. Check out cashmoreeditorial.com or follow Stephen on Twitter @sceditorial