Tag Archives: Search & replace

Listing acronyms from figures

When editing a document that has a lot of acronyms (initials or abbreviations pronounced as a word, such as Nasa or radar) or just plain initials (such as FBI, pronounced not as a word but by saying the letters F-B-I), I try to reduce their quantity by eliminating as many as I can. If IOTs* (initials of things) appears only once, I would delete it. When the reader comes across initials of things (IOTs), it might be useless trivia or it might be essential to memorize it in order to understand the rest of the document. The reader doesn’t know, but I can search for it with Microsoft Word’s find & replace tool and see whether it ever appears again in the document. If not, I delete it.

However, a lot of documents I edit have charts, graphs, or other figures that have been placed as pictures. Word can’t search the text in these pictures, so my practice for years has been to go through them and write down any abbreviations, initials, or acronyms that are not defined in the figure where they appear. All of them get listed in a note or glossary. When editing, I would continually refer to the written list to see what has to remain in the glossary even if it appears nowhere in the document’s text. This has involved a lot of back-and-forth referring to the written list.

Last month I thought of a better way to make that list of terms that appear in figures. It is so obvious that I am kicking myself for not thinking of it years ago: instead of writing down the abbreviations, initials, or acronyms in a separate list or file, I just add them to the document I’m editing. They can be the starting material for a glossary, simply a separate list, or added to an existing glossary, in which case I add a note to myself indicating which figure the term appears in so that I know not to delete it from the glossary.

Then when I come across initials of things (IOTs) in the text, I can search for IOTs. If it appears anywhere in the document, even just in a chart, Word should find it. If it turns up only in the glossary, with a note such as “(fig. 4),” I will know to keep IOTs in the glossary. If it turns up nowhere, I can safely delete it.

If I’m the last editor in the world to think of this, you can say, “Ha, ha! Steve has been using a handwritten list of terms that appear in figures!” If, like me, you’ve been wading through a mire of abbreviations, initials, and acronyms and struggling to cope, this may help you out of the quicksand.


*This is a silly string of initials I made up; it doesn’t belong in any serious document.

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Word’s Autocorrect: A Menace

Microsoft Word’s Autocorrect feature has long been hazardous. For example, it will change (c) to ©, turning a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit corporation into a 501©3 corporation. However, you can go to the Autocorrect options and deselect transformations you don’t want.

One choice is “Automatically use suggestions from the spelling checker.” It’s a good idea to always keep this turned off. Here’s why: not only will it change words it doesn’t recognize into words it does, when a word breaks at the end of a line, it may change the first portion of the word into something else.

I discovered this when, at work, we got another Word “upgrade” and I neglected to uncheck “Automatically use suggestions from the spelling checker.” The unbroken word identification was at the beginning of a line, leaving a gap at the end of the previous line. After identifi, I inserted an optional hyphen (to allow the word to break if it fell at the end of a line and there was room for it to split—exactly the case I faced). The word split, and to my horror, identifi- changed before my eyes into identify-. Word didn’t change cation—it’s a word that means “positive ion,” though I’m not sure Word knew that.

To turn off this menace, go to More Commands, Proofing, Autocorrect Options, and uncheck “Automatically use suggestions from the spelling checker.” If you suspect that Word has already done some damage, turning unbroken words into really broken words, you can use the Find and Replace menu; choose Special, Optional Hyphen. That way you can search a document for words that have split, and you can correct any that Word has already ruined. It appears that if you correct the word manually (I changed identify- back to identifi-), Word will leave it alone.

Searching up and down in Microsoft Word

Searching up and down in Microsoft Word

“Check quotation marks to be sure that all are paired and that there are no doubles within doubles.”

“Check parens to be sure that all are paired and that there are no parens within parens.”

These are two items on my copy-editing and proofreading checklist.

If you’re working on paper, these tasks require a keen eye and concentration.

If you’re editing on screen, Microsoft Word’s “Find and Replace” feature can help, but there’s one problem with the default operation of this tool: The search box will shift around on the screen so that the item it finds will be in view. However, when looking for pairs of quotation marks or parentheses, you want both of them to be in view at the same time, and the shifting search box is likely to cover up one of them. (See the first screen shot:* The search box stopped at the first quotation mark it came to, and it shifted to keep the quotation mark in view while covering up the other quotation mark in the pair.)

I stumbled onto a way to avoid this problem: search up from the bottom of the document. The search box will stay put at the bottom of the screen, and the item it finds will be at the top. If the other quotation mark or parenthesis in the pair is not in the same line, you’ll have to scroll up slightly to have both in view at the same time. (See the second screen shot: The search box stayed at the bottom of the screen, where I positioned it when starting the search; I had to scroll up one line to bring the second quotation mark into view.) I’ve found this to be less bother than continually moving the search box so I can see both quotation marks or parentheses at the same time, which is what I have to do when searching from the top down.

* Both screen shots are from Elin Gursky and Boris Hrečkovski, eds., Handbook for Pandemic and Mass-Casualty Planning and Response, NATO Science for Peace and Security Series, Sub-Series E: Human and Societal Dynamics—Vol. 100 (Amsterdam, Netherlands: IOS Press). I copy-edited the book, and the lead author, Elin, kindly gave me permission to use it as an editing sample.