The Need for Speed

In my last few years as a corporate employee, I felt compelled to edit faster and faster while still maintaining accuracy. (Could it have had something to do with the many rounds of layoffs in the company?) If you’re feeling the same squeeze, I have some suggestions that might help.

1. Choose the fast way over the easy way. That sounds paradoxical, but it’s often easier to spend *ten* minutes making corrections manually than it is to spend *five* minutes recording and running a macro to make the same corrections automatically. Human nature, I guess. But if you can keep breaking through your own resistance to change, all those new techniques will soon become second nature, and you’ll be working at a higher and faster level.

2. If you’re still working on an old 233 MHz computer with 256 megs of RAM, get an upgrade, fer cryin’ out loud! Buy a new computer–something fast, with, say, a 2GHz processor and at least 1G of RAM (I recommend, for now, sticking with Windows XP and Word 2000 or 2003). Over the past few years, desktop computers have become very powerful–and cheap:

The latest Macs make me drool, but they’re on the expensive side:

“But,” you say, “I don’t need a fast computer; all I’m doing is reading through one document at a time and making simple corrections.” If that’s true:

3. Learn how to automate as many tasks as you can; that’s what computers are for, and that’s why you need one that’s fast. If you’re still editing as you would on paper, learn how to use macros and wildcard Find and Replace. That will require an investment of time and effort, but you’ll be amazed at the results. (scroll down to “Macros and Programs”). (scroll down to “Finding and Replacing”).

4. Spend a few minutes once a month researching new software that might make your life easier. There are wonderful programs out there, many of them free, and I’ll try to feature some of them in the future. As a friend of mine says, “If you keep doing things the same way, life will never get any better.” Of course, I recommend my own Microsoft Word add-ins:

For lots of other interesting ideas, check out LifeHacker:

5. Maintain your computer. How to do that is beyond the scope of this article, but there’s plenty of information on the internet. I like Windows Secrets:

6. Set your mouse and keyboard to run as fast as you can stand. I always have mine at full blast.

7. Don’t use directly applied formatting. Do use paragraph styles.

8. Make sure you’ve got the final version of the document you need to work on. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve edited something only to have the author say, “Oh, that was a preliminary version.” Editing once is fast; editing twice is slow.

9. Educate your authors and clients. If old Professor Higgins always hits ENTER at the end of each line as if using a typewriter, pick up the phone, call the good professor, and explain why that’s a bad idea. Don’t just sullenly correct the same mistakes time after time. Why not give your authors a checklist of (1) things to do and (2) things not to do? It would make your life easier, and your work faster. I’ve included a few such items at the end of the instructions for my free Author Tools Template:

10. Educate yourself. Spend one hour each week (I like Friday afternoon) learning one new skill or technique that would make your work easier and faster. You might consult my newsletter archive for some ideas:

Do you have other hints and ideas about how to speed up editing (while still maintaining quality)? If so, share the love:

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Macro programs

Can’t do what you need with Word macros? Check these out:

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