From 3 or more weeks to just a few seconds

March 29, 2023

It’s the almost the end of the month and I’ve just emailed my invoices for work done this month (and in some cases, this quarter).

Within just a few minutes, one client replied saying he’d paid my invoice already (remember, he had to get distracted from what he was doing, read my email, open the PDF attachment, note the amount, log in to his bank, pay me [double-checking the amount before submitting the payment], then compose a reply to me, so the actual bank transfer took mere seconds as the other few minutes were taken up with everything else). He asked me to check my bank records tomorrow to confirm that his payment has been processed, but I checked immediately and the funds were already in my bank account!

So I began musing on the process we used to generate invoices and get paid just 25 years ago…

  1. If using a computer, use accounting software to calculate each invoice based on timesheets (no computer? all done manually).
  2. Print out invoices (or type them if no computer). Make a copy of each for your own records (carbon copy if on typewriter).
  3. Address envelopes (by hand), put invoices into correct envelopes, get and apply stamps, mail at post office (10 min drive away in my case).
  4. Wait a week for each invoice to get to the clients.
  5. Clients might wait until the end of the next month to pay all their outstanding bills; some had even longer payment cycles, such as 60 or 90 days.
  6. Each client writes out a cheque and mails it to me (another week).
  7. Check letterbox (or PO box at post office) to see if cheques have arrived, and hope no-one has raided the letterbox and stolen the cheques.
  8. Go to the nearest bank branch to deposit the cheques (30-min drive each way for me), or hold them over until I had other business to do in town as it’s not worth driving for an hour just to deposit a single cheque.
  9. Once each cheque was deposited, wait at least another 3 days for the cheque to clear and the funds to be available for use.

And this ALL assumes that nothing got lost in the mail (both ways) or stolen, and that the client actually received the invoice and paid it in a timely manner. The ‘your cheque is in the mail’ excuse was well used by some!

When I set up my business in 1999, I decided to NOT have a chequing account and to do everything online as far as possible (I’d had my own computer since 1994, and was already using Microsoft Money for managing my personal accounts; I switched to MYOB when I set up my business). In the past 24 years, I’ve never regretted that decision—I think only one person has ever paid me by cheque and that was more than 20 years ago.

With accounting software, a computer (includes phones and other devices) and printer (optional), email, and electronic banking, what used to take a couple of weeks (and human handling) now takes just a few minutes, and in some cases, just seconds (the minutes are reading the email, checking the invoice, logging in to the bank, composing a reply etc.).

NOTE: I think Australia must have been an early adopter of electronic banking. I know from various forums that even 5 years ago some editors etc. in the US were still putting their faith in the check (cheque) system and were very distrustful of electronic banking (assuming it was even an option with their bank).


Word: Replace ‘to’ in a number range with a dash

March 26, 2023

Pam asked if I could help her with a wildcard search for replacing the ‘to’ in a number range (e.g. 1.65 to 2.30) with a dash (in this case, she wanted a dash (also known as a hyphen—the one on the top of a keyboard), not an en dash, which would be typical for a number range). She PROMISED she wouldn’t do ‘replace all’, and if you’re doing this, please don’t use ‘replace all’ as you may change some things that aren’t number ranges (e.g. They each gave $25 to 10 people).

These instructions are for Word for Windows; Word for Mac should be the same once you get to its Find and Replace window:

  1. Press Ctrl+h to open the Find and Replace window.
  2. Click More.
  3. Select the Use wildcards checkbox.
  4. In the Find, type: ([0-9])( to )([0-9]) 
    (NOTE: There is a single space either side of the ‘to’)
  5. In the Replace, type: \1-\3
    (NOTE: This adds a standard dash; if you want an en dash, replace the standard dash with an en dash, which you can get by pressing Ctrl+[minus] on the number pad of a standard keyboard.)
  6. Click Find Next, then Replace if the instance found meets your criteria. Repeat.

How this works:

  • ([0-9]) represents any single numerical digit from 0 to 9
  • ( to ) looks for ‘to’ surrounded by a single space either side
  • \1-\3 replaces the first instance of ([0-9]) with itself (i.e. no change), then adds a dash, then replaces the second instance of ([0-9]) with itself (i.e. no change).

Update: Adrienne Montgomerie decided to test ChatGPT on creating a wildcard search for this. Here are her results: https://scieditor.ca/2023/03/editor-and-ai-wildcard-searches/


Word: Find and replace maintaining original capitalisation

March 23, 2023

Sean had a problem: ‘I need to replace a fully capitalised term (EMBA) with a title one (Planning Area), but doing the standard Find/Replace just gives me a capitalised version (i.e. PLANNING AREA) throughout. Is there an easy fix/trick for this?’

Sure is, Sean!

  1. Save your document. (Always standard practice before making potential global changes—if anything goes wrong, you can always close without saving and your global changes won’t be saved but you will have saved all your earlier changes)
  2. Turn OFF track changes unless you specifically need them on for this.
  3. Press Ctrl+H to open the Find/Replace window.
  4. Click More.
  5. In the Find, type EMBA
  6. Select the Match Case AND Find Whole Words Only checkboxes.
  7. In the Replace, type Planning Area
  8. Click Find Next, then Replace.
  9. Check that it worked OK (it should), then if confident, click Replace All. It’s safer to do Find Next then Replace than Replace All, but having specified the match case AND find whole words only, you shouldn’t get any nasties (such as replacing ‘EMBARKATION’ with ‘Planning AreaRKATION’).

NOTE: Match case and Find whole words only will remain as the default filters for any future searches while the Word document is open, so I suggest you go back and turn those off once you’re done, otherwise your standard Ctrl+F searches will apply those filters too.


That’s what you pay me for

March 17, 2023

A client had an URGENT issue with a Word document. Urgent because something broke (heading outline numbering in this case) and they were on a drop-dead deadline to get the document to the federal government regulator TODAY. I tried a couple of things (one of which caused a track changes issue—even though track changes was turned OFF—that couldn’t be fixed quickly), before applying a fix that I was pretty sure would work, which it did. They were MOST grateful I could fix it.

Sometimes people want to quibble on things like rates, but then something like this happens and I can fix it in 15 mins because of my prior experience with Word (I’ve used Word since the early 1990s, and it’s been my primary work tool since 2008). You realise that you (and others) could’ve spent all day on it and still not solved it, with all the stress that comes with that because you know that it costs bucketloads of $$$$$ when documents due to go to regulators aren’t submitted on time. I certainly don’t claim to be able to fix everything, but I have a handle on some places in Word where others fear to tread!

It’s just like if I had a problem with my car or computer. I’d see if it was something I could figure out within a few minutes, and then I’d call in the experts. The cost of you (+ others) agonising over this is far greater than the cost of getting me to do it. Ultimately, what you’re paying me for is my decades of learning and expertise, just like you pay your mechanic for the knowledge and expertise they have to be able fix your car or your computer people to fix your computer.

BTW, the issue the client had was that they’d lost all their outline numbering for headings (heading levels 1 to 5 in a 350+ page document). When I asked if they’d worked on it WITHIN SharePoint after receiving it back from me yesterday, they said ‘yes’. I have a suspicion that what happened to them is related to this issue I came across several months ago, which I also suspect is related to working on a document within SharePoint: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2022/08/04/word-outline-numbered-headings-start-at-a-number-other-than-1/


Word: A cautionary tale about Replace All

March 11, 2023

A cautionary tale about clicking Replace All when doing find and replace in Word…

The 150p document I was working on had a LOT (more than 5000) instances of values with abbreviated units of measure per hour (e.g. km/hr, m3/hr) in their many tables. However, they’d used ‘hr’ as the abbreviation for hour instead of the standard abbreviated SI unit, which is ‘h’. This was a job for find and replace!

My initial find was set to ‘hr’ with ‘h’ as the replacement and I was going to click Replace All (with more than 5000, clicking Find Next just wasn’t an efficient option). However, at the last minute I decided to add the slash to narrow the find and replace to just ‘/hr’, replacing with ‘/h’, before clicking Replace All.

Had I not done so and clicked Replace All, hundreds of words like through, threat, throughout, shred, breakthrough, etc. would have changed too! And spellcheck would not have saved me for some of these (e.g. through => though; shred ==> shed).


Word: Shift punctuation to after a closing parenthesis

March 6, 2023

An editor on one of my editing Facebook groups put out a call for help. They wanted to find instances where punctuation preceded an opening parenthesis (typically used for a citation) and if possible, move that punctuation to after the closing parenthesis. For example: ‘Life is good. (Jones 2022) Here is the next sentence.’ should be ‘Life is good (Jones 2022). Here is the next sentence.’

In their example, the only punctuation is a period, but it could be a comma, semicolon or a full colon. (I’ll ignore exclamation points and question marks as they don’t play well with Word’s wildcard find as they are special characters used in wildcards.)

As with any find/replace, you need to identify the pattern you’re looking for—in this case, a punctuation character followed by a single space then an opening parenthesis, then varying text and numerals, followed by a closing parenthesis.

This is an ideal situation for wildcards! However, any such changes done globally could have unintended consequences, so my recommendation is to NOT click Replace All—instead, click Find Next followed by Replace once you’ve determined nothing will go wrong. The biggest thing that could go wrong is that there could be a citation that didn’t have a closing parenthesis immediately after it, in which case this find/replace would find the next closing parenthesis, which may not be part of a citation at all. Bottom line: DON’T click Replace All.

  1. Press Ctrl+h to open the Find/Replace window.
  2. Click More.
  3. Click the Use wildcards checkbox.
  4. In the Find What field, type (or, preferably, copy then paste) this:  ([.,;:])( )([\(])(*)([\)])
  5. In the Replace With field, type (or copy/paste) this: \2\3\4\5\1
  6. Click Find Next. If a correct string is found, click Replace (otherwise, click Find Next to see if the next one is a match you want to change). Repeat.

How this works:

  • There are 5 elements to the Find, with each enclosed in parentheses. Each element is represented internally within Word by a number, so the first element is treated as 1, the second as 2 etc. This becomes important for the Replace because you’ll use those numbers to represent what’s in the Find, and will reorder them to place the punctuation after the closing parenthesis.
    • The 1st element in the Find is ([.,;:]) — The outside parens tell Word to treat this element as one thing, the square brackets tell Word that the items within those brackets are the range of characters to find—in this case any comma, period, semicolon or colon.
    • The 2nd element in the Find is ( ) — The outside parens tell Word to treat this element as one thing, and inside the parens is a single space. So, look for the first element (any one of those punctuation characters), followed immediately by a space.
    • The 3rd element in the Find is ([\(]) — The outside parens tell Word to treat this element as one thing, the square brackets tell Word to find the character within those brackets—in this case an opening parenthesis. NOTE: Because parentheses are special characters in wildcard find/replace, you MUST ‘escape’ the character (using a \ )to tell Word to treat the opening parenthesis as a parenthesis and not as a special command. Our search string is growing and now means look for the first element (any one of those punctuation characters), followed immediately by a space, followed immediately by an opening parenthesis.
    • The 4th element in the Find is (*) — This is the command that is the potentially dangerous one and the reason why I advise you to NOT use Replace All with this find/replace—an asterisk inside parens like this tells Word to find ANYTHING. Any character, any numeral, any punctuation, any space, any tab… anything! And any number of them. Our search string now tells Word to look for the first element (any one of those punctuation characters), followed immediately by a space, followed immediately by an opening parenthesis, followed by ANYTHING until it gets to the 5th and final element (below), which is the closing parens.
    • The 5th and final element in the Find is ([\)]) — Explanation as for the 3rd element, but this time you need to ‘escape’ the closing parenthesis.
  • The Replace string is simple: When Word finds the matching pattern for the search, rearrange the elements above in this order: 2, 3, 4, 5 then 1 (the \ separates these numbered elements; note there’s no spaces between this string of numbers—if you add a space, then that would get added in the result in that place too). In other words, keep elements 2, 3, 4, and 5 in the same order, but move element 1 and put it after element 5. Because element 1 is the punctuation and element 5 is the closing parenthesis, the punctuation will now come after the parenthesis and be removed from before it.

Some perspective on ChatGPT and others in relation to technical writing

March 6, 2023

Much of this blog post by technical writer and documentation and content specialist Michael Iantosca also applies to editors: https://thinkingdocumentation.com/blog/f/is-chatgpt-going-to-take-your-job

Bottom line: Look for the opportunities to make these technologies work for you.

As he says in his third paragraph: “Change is inevitable, and resistance is futile. Yes, jobs will be eliminated by automation, including large language models – eventually, but the workers who’ll be affected most are those who resist and fail to change and adapt.”


Some things to try if emails aren’t getting through to you

March 4, 2023

One of my readers is not receiving emails from one of her clients at a major Australian university. She uses Outlook and Windows 10, and has a Bigpond email address (part of Telstra in Australia). She asked if I could help her. She added this: ‘Telstra has advised that it looks as if the problem is at their [the university’s] end. The [university’s] domain is added as a safe contact in my email system, and the emails are not going to junk. It appears they’re stuck somewhere. My [university] colleagues have received messages to say that the server is busy. Do you think the problem is at their end? Is there anything you could recommend I try?’

My first response applies to everyone reading this—I am NOT an expert in Outlook and email systems in general; I’m just a user. However, I’ve learned over the years that the first step in a situation like this is to try to figure out where the problem is—is it at her end (Outlook)? is it at the Telstra (Bigpond) end? Is it at the university’s end (the information about the ‘busy server’ might indicate a bigger problem at their end)? or is it somewhere in between? If you paid someone to look at this, they could well spend 30 or more minutes testing things you can test yourself, before they get down to more in-depth troubleshooting.

My response to her (you would substitute Bigpond and your client’s email addresses, of course):

Do you have another email address they can try sending to, such as a free Gmail address? You need to establish where the problem is.

  1. Let’s eliminate Outlook first: Check your Junk email options in Outlook—on the Home tab, click the drop-down arrow for Junk and select Junk email options. Make sure you haven’t set ‘permanently delete’ and also check all the Safe Senders and Blocked Senders lists to see if the university’s email addresses and/or domain are listed in Safe and not in Blocked. If Outlook isn’t blocking anything, then set up a free Gmail address (or use one you already have).
  2. Once you set up a Gmail address keep Gmail open in your browser at the inbox page, then go to Outlook and send a test email from your usual Bigpond email address to that Gmail address. Check the Gmail inbox to make sure it gets through—it may take a minute or so.
  3. Next, from within Gmail, compose a test email and send it to your Bigpond address. Check Outlook to see if it comes through. If it goes to junk, then allow that Gmail address and re-test to see if it’s not treated as junk the second time.
  4. Next, set up Gmail to auto forward to your Bigpond address anything sent to that Gmail address (cog icon in top right corner for settings, then See all settings, then Forwarding and POP/IMAP – on that page in the first section, click Forward a copy… then add your Bigpond address and select Keep Gmail’s copy in the Inbox).
  5. Send another test email from Outlook to your Gmail address, wait a minute or so to see if it comes back into your Outlook via your Bigpond address. If it does, then that’s working and any emails sent to that Gmail address should come to you.
  6. Now you need to get someone at the university to send a test email to your Gmail address.
    • If it arrives in your Gmail inbox, it’s not a university issue.
    • If it gets forwarded from Gmail to your Bigpond address (in Outlook), it’s also likely not a university issue.
    • If it doesn’t get forwarded, then the issue is likely with Telstra—it’s likely some (or all?) university emails are blacklisted somewhere.

Bottom line: If the university emails can’t get to a Gmail address, then the issue is likely at the university’s end. If their email can get to your Gmail address, but then NOT get auto forwarded to your Bigpond address, then the issue is likely with Telstra.

It may take a bit of effort and several test emails to try to nut out where the problem is—the university, Telstra, or even Outlook itself (even though you’ve set them up as a trusted domain). And then, once you’ve figured out where the problem is, you’ll need to contact someone at either place to see what they can do at their end… good luck with that! (the university will have an IT department, but dealing with Telstra can be a nightmare).

Another suggestion, particularly once you’ve figured out where the problem is but can’t go further, is to contact an IT company that offers support to small businesses, sole traders, individuals etc. There are bound to be plenty in your state, so ask friends, colleagues, family for recommendations. Be aware that you’ll be paying upwards of $100/hour for their help, so figuring out as much as you can beforehand will save you some money. Document everything you’ve tried if you’re emailing them.

Of course, if the Gmail solution works, then you may just go with that and get your client to send emails to your Gmail address.


Good examples of the different types of editing

March 3, 2023

Australian editor, AJ Collins, has written an excellent blog post explaining—and showing—the different types of editing that editors do: https://www.ajcollins.com.au/resources-for-writers/types-of-editing-explained/

Her examples show a page of fiction marked up according to the various editing stages, and are a good way to see the differences in what different types of editing bring to the process.

I only edit non-fiction material, typically corporate and government documents and reports (mostly related to the onshore and offshore resources industry [oil and gas, mining, geology] and soil, water and agriculture reports for a government department), and my expertise crosses that very fuzzy line between line and copy editing. The sorts of things I do with the documents I edit are encompassed, for the most part, in the ‘triage’ list of editing tasks I have listed on my website: https://cybertext.com.au/editing_levels.html, and don’t just cover the text but also formatting, checking lists of terms and citations/references, and other tasks to make a document suitable for its audience.


Adobe Acrobat XI Pro: Always open PDFs at 100%

March 2, 2023

Here’s a solution to something that’s annoyed me for years—whenever I open a PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro, it defaults to a percentage that seems to be based on the size of the window I used when I last opened a PDF. Yes, I can change the percentage in the menu, but I have to do it for every PDF.

In one of my editing groups on Facebook, JB asked: ‘Is there a way to get PDFs to automatically open at 100% instead of 46.7%. No matter how many times I zoom a PDF I’m working with to 100% and save it, the next time I open it, it’s at 46.7% again. This is a minor annoyance, but still annoying. I’m using Adobe Acrobat Pro.’

The solution offered by one of the members works well, but it only works for a single PDF—if you open that PDF again, it will open at 100%, but other PDFs will open at different sizes. That member’s solution for the PDF that’s currently open is: Ctrl+D > Initial View > 100%, then save before closing.

But what if you want to set the percentage for ALL PDFs you open, no matter the window size? These instructions are for my older version of Adobe Acrobat XI Pro, and may not work exactly the same with later versions (the setting in newer versions will likely be under accessibility or display preference settings; Update: These seem to be the same settings in Acrobat Reader too):

  1. Open Adobe Acrobat XI Pro (or Acrobat Reader). You do not need to open a PDF.
  2. Go to Edit > Preferences > Accessibility.
  3. Go to Override Page Display.
  4. Select the Always use Zoom Setting checkbox.
  5. While you’re there, change the drop-down for that setting to 100% or whatever size you want.
  6. Click OK.

After changing this setting I tested it by opening other PDFs and they all opened at 100%.

Thanks JB for asking the question—this has annoyed me for years, but never bothered me enough to find out if I could change it. Until now.