Getting Help with Macros

By Jack Lyon, the Editorium

While messing about with macros, I sometimes find myself up against a problem for which I have no solution. Time to get some help!

My usual approach is to use Google to search for "microsoft word vba [whatever problem I'm having]".

That turns up lots of interesting stuff, but the best answers are usually found in just a handful of places:

All of those have "Search" bars of their own, so you can search directly within those places for what you need.

The most reliable answers in those forums are usually given by the ever-helpful Microsoft MVPs, past and present. In particular, watch for answers from these folks:

  • Suzanne S. Barnhill
  • Paul Edstein
  • Terry Farrell
  • John McGhie
  • Charles Kenyon
  • Greg Maxey
  • Graham Mayor

And don't forget to say "Thank you!"

Readers Write

After reading last week's article, "Writing Down the Chaos," which discussed writing with notecard-based software, Kirsten Janene-Nelson wrote:

I use Scrivener. You can organize by cards with their "Corkboard" feature as well as seamlessly switch to manuscript view. There's a bit of a learning curve, but it's pretty painless and they have several helpful videos. My favorite feature is that you can keep all the moving parts of what you're writing close at hand without their being in your face. It's a virtual writing desk plus bulletin board plus project binder—all in one.

It's $59 after 30 days' trial—not 30 calendar days from when you start, but 30 actual days that you use Scrivener, regardless of when you start.

Thanks to Kirsten for this information. If you're serious about writing, Scrivener may be the very program you need to produce your masterpiece.

Posted in Macros, Uncategorized | Comments closed

How to Add a Macro to Word and Its QAT (Quick Access Toolbar)

Microsoft Word's macro features make it possible to turn Word into a lean, mean editing machine. You'll find lots of free editing macros online (see below for some excellent sources). But how can you add a macro to Microsoft Word so it will be available when you need it? Here's the procedure:

  1. Copy the text of the macro, starting with the first “Sub” and ending with the last “Sub.”
  2. Click the “View” tab on Microsoft Word’s ribbon.
  3. Click the “Macros” button.
  4. Type a name for the macro in the “Macro name” box—probably the name used after the first “Sub.”
  5. Click the “Create” button.
  6. Delete the “Sub” and “End Sub” lines that Word created in the macro window. The macro window should now be completely empty (unless you already have other macros in there).
  7. Paste the macro text at the current insertion point.
  8. Click “File,” then “Close and Return to Microsoft Word.”

To actually use the macro:

  1. Place your cursor at the beginning of the document.
  2. Click the “View” tab on Microsoft Word’s ribbon.
  3. Click the “Macros” button.
  4. Click the name of your macro to select it.
  5. Click the “Run” button. (If you wanted to delete the macro, you could press the “Delete” button instead.)

To put the macro on Word’s QAT (Quick Access Toolbar):

  1. Locate the QAT (it’s probably on the top left of your screen either above or below Word’s Ribbon interface).
  2. Right-click the QAT.
  3. Click “Customize Quick Access Toolbar.”
  4. Under “Choose commands from:” click the dropdown list and select “Macros.”
  5. Find and select your macro in the list on the left.
  6. Click the “Add” button to add it to the QAT.
  7. Click the “OK” button to finish.

You'll find Microsoft's official instructions here.

Free macros for editors

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments closed

Writing Down the Chaos

By Jack Lyon, the Editorium

You can't do much carpentry with your bare hands, and you can't do much thinking with your bare brain. —Bo Dahlbom

High school English class. Freshman year. The teacher explained how to:

  1. Come up with a thesis statement.
  2. Create an outline of arguments supporting the thesis statement.
  3. Write a paper based on that outline.

That's actually a terrible way to write! It requires you to organize your thoughts before you know what those thoughts actually are. But there is a better way.

Brainstorm, Organize, Write

What are your thoughts about a particular subject? In the days before computers, you'd find out like this:

  1. Get a package of index cards, something like these.
  2. On each card, write an idea related to your thesis (the fancy word for whatever it is you want to write about). Do not try to do this in any kind of order; you're brainstorming here: good ideas, bad ideas, any ideas—they all go down on the cards. When your brain is empty, stop.
  3. On a big desk or table, spread the cards out in front of you. Keep them messy.
  4. Read the cards and stack those on a certain subject together until you have several stacks. Discard (pardon the pun) those that don't belong anywhere or that now seem irrelevant or stupid.
  5. Put the cards in each stack in some kind of order. Importance? Chronology? You choose.
  6. Put the stacks in some kind of order. Each stack represents a section of your paper.

After you've captured and organized your thoughts, write your paper, starting with the first card and ending with the last. Each stack gets a subheading. Each card gets a paragraph. When you're finished, edit your paper as needed.

Card-Based Writing Programs

But, again, that was in the days before computers. We now have much better ways of doing what I've just described, with new card-based writing programs popping up all the time. Here are some that I recommend for the kind of writing I've explained in this article:

Milanote. $9.99 a month (billed annually).


Milanote is the most expensive of the programs listed here, but it's also the slickest. Cards can be created and then placed on the screen in any order you like. After you have them all down, organize them into columns. Finally, export the whole thing as a Word document, a Markdown document, or plain text, ready for editing. Milanote is elegant, a pleasure to use.

Speare. $4.95 a month (billed annually).


Speare doesn't support free-form card placement; each paragraph is a card, and all cards must be arranged in a "board." After creating and organizing your cards, "compile" them into a document, copy the document, and paste into Word or another word processor.

SuperNotecard. $19 a year.


SuperNotecard includes various kinds of metadata you can use to organize your cards: headings, flags, ratings, categories, references, and much more. If you're writing a novel, SuperNotecard is probably the way to go, as you can create and link to cards for characters, settings, themes, and so on. At just $19 a year, it's ridiculously cheap.

Notebox Disorganizer is one of my favorites. I've written about it before. It's simple but powerful, and best of all, it's free! (Sorry, PC only.)


I hope you'll give these programs a try, especially if you're feeling stuck in your writing. Brainstorming, organizing, and then writing can make all the difference. Write down the chaos!

Readers Write

After reading last week's article on listing keyboard shortcuts, macro expert Paul Beverley wrote:

I have a version that spreads the list out a bit and covers more aspects. As you'll see from the attached, it's alphabetic in two ways.

Thanks to Paul for making this resource available.

Posted in Programs, Writing | Comments closed

Listing Keyboard Shortcuts: Two Methods

By Jack Lyon, the Editorium

As useful as custom keyboard shortcuts may be in using Microsoft Word, it's sometimes difficult to remember which keys you've assigned to what function. Word itself includes one way to find out:

  1. Click File > Print.

  2. Under "Settings," select "Key Assignments: List of your custom shortcut keys":


  3. Select the printer you want to use.

  4. Click the big "Print" button at the top left.

You'll get a document with entries that look something like this:


As useful as that might be, it's kind of a mess to read. Microsoft could have done a much better job of formatting.

As an alternative, you can list all of your custom keyboard shortcuts with this handy macro:

Sub ListKeyAssignments() 
Dim kbLoop As KeyBinding
Dim aTemp As template
For Each aTemp In Templates
    If LCase(aTemp.Name) = "Normal.dotm" Then 'You can also use the name of a different template here.
        CustomizationContext = aTemp
        For Each kbLoop In KeyBindings
            selection.InsertAfter kbLoop.Command & vbTab & kbLoop.KeyString & vbCr
            selection.Collapse Direction:=wdCollapseEnd
        Next kbLoop
    End If
Next aTemp
End Sub

You may already know how to add such macros to Word, but if not, here's how.

And you can learn here how to run it.

Now, create a new document and run the macro. You should get results like this in your new document:


Much easier to read, don't you think?

After you've created a list of your custom keyboard shortcuts, you can change them or create new ones.

I hope this helps you turn your computer into the lean, mean editing machine it was always meant to be.

Posted in Editing Tools, Lyonizing Word, Macros | Comments closed

Wildcard Secrets Revisited

A few weeks ago I sent out an article called "Three Wildcard Secrets." I thought they were pretty good secrets, too! You can see them here.

In a nutshell, here are the first two:

The wildcard range [A-z], meant to find any uppercase or lowercase letter, will not find accented letters. You have to use [A-Za-z] instead. So I suggested using [!A-z] (not A-z) to find any characters that are accented.

Similarly, if you need to find any unspecified Unicode character, you can use the not range [!^000-^255]. That should work, as 255 is the upper limit on ANSI characters, so anything the range finds must be Unicode.

Then I received a corrective email from macro expert Paul Beverley. The nerve! Here's what Paul had to say about secret #1:

You see the problem? It did what you asked, not what you wanted. It finds any character at all, except A-z.

And Paul is right! The range [!A-z] finds not just accented characters but also spaces, punctuation, and other stuff that isn't letters—something I knew if I'd actually thought about it. You can solve the problem by adding more things that you want to skip. Here's an example:

[!A-z 0-9.,;:\-\?\!^001-^064]

(For more information, see my Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word.)

Next, Paul had this to say about secret #2:

On my PC [!^000-^255] throws up an error:

Now technically, I was right about the range being [!^000-^255]. The problem is that Microsoft Word wants [!^001-^255] instead. And to make things even worse, that wildcard range correctly skips the ASCII characters (numbered 0-126) but incorrectly finds the extended ASCII characters (numbered 127-255), even though we've told it not to. Microsoft strikes again!

But wait, there's more!

  • The range [!^128-^255] gives us the same error message as [!^000-^255].
  • The range [!^127-^255] finds Unicode characters (which it should) and extended ASCII characters (which it should not).
  • The range [!^127-^254] skips extended ASCII characters (which it should) and Unicode characters (which it should not).

All of this weirdness seems to hinge on the points where ASCII becomes extended ASCII, and extended ASCII ends.

Might any of this be useful in your editing work? Yes, if you're using wildcard searches:

  • Use the range [!^127-^255] to find Unicode and extended ASCII characters.
  • Use the range [!^127-^254] to skip Unicode and extended ASCII characters.

That should work, at least until Microsoft decides to fix these problems.

Many thanks to Paul Beverley for his valuable feedback. If you'd like a bunch of free editing macros with instructions on how to use them, you'll want to download Paul's book Macros for Editors.

Posted in Microsoft Word, Wildcards | Comments closed

Three Wildcard Secrets

So, you’ve been using wildcards with Microsoft Word’s Find and Replace feature to save time and ensure consistency as you edit the plethora of freelance work that’s bombarding your inbox. Excellent. But even if you’re getting pretty good at using wildcards, there are actually a few secrets that even many experts don’t know. Maybe you’ll find them useful.

Secret #1

Using the wildcard range [A-z] to find any uppercase or lowercase letter will not find accented letters. Take, for example, the word résumé. [A-z] will find the r, s, u, and m in that word, but it will skip over the two occurrences of é. Go ahead, try it. I’ll be here when you get back.

If you actually want to skip over accented letters, [A-z] might come in handy sometime, but that will rarely be the case. To find all letters, both accented and unaccented, use the wildcard range [A-Za-z] instead. Also, as you might expect, [A-Z] finds both accented and unaccented capital letters, and [a-z] finds both accented and unaccented lowercase letters.

Okay, so [A-z] skips over accented characters; that suggests the idea that we could use a variation on that range to find only accented characters. How? Add an exclamation mark at the beginning of the range, which tells Word to find any character except what is in the range. The modified range looks like this: [!A-z]. Again, using the word résumé, [!A-z] finds the two occurrences of é but skips over r, s, u, and m. If you need to find accented characters, now you know how.

Secret #2

In a wildcard search, you can’t search for Unicode characters using numeric codes (such as ^u945), but you can copy Unicode characters from a document and paste them into Word’s Find box. You can even search for a range of Unicode characters. For example, the range [?-?] from the Greek alphabet (lowercase alpha through omega) finds every character in the Greek greeting ???? ???. You can see the range of characters in various languages by clicking Word’s Insert tab and then the Symbol button on the ribbon:

For example, here, in order, are some of the Cyrillic characters available in Word:

If you need to find any (unspecified) Unicode character in a document, you can use this not range:


That works because 127 is the upper limit on ASCII characters and 255 is the upper limit on ANSI characters. This wildcard string excludes them both, so anything it finds must be Unicode.

Secret #3

You can use the search code ^p to search for paragraph breaks in a regular search, but not with wildcards. If you try, Word will display an error message:

So how do you search for paragraph breaks when using wildcards? Instead of ^p, use ^013. All well and good, but here’s the real secret: In Word’s Replace box, you must not use ^013; instead, use ^p. That’s right:

Find what: ^013

Replace with: ^p

Why? Because Word’s paragraph breaks are not the same thing as an ANSI paragraph break (^013). Word stores all kinds of stuff in paragraph breaks (formatting, for example), and an ANSI break is just a character like any other. I’ve occasionally had to work on documents that came from who-knows-where, and my usual wildcard searches wouldn’t work. I finally realized that those documents were using ANSI paragraph breaks rather than Word’s proprietary paragraph breaks. The solution? Once again:

Find what: ^013

Replace with: ^p

After I replaced the ANSI breaks, my wildcard searches worked again.

Bonus Secret

Microsoft Word’s wildcard search engine uses a modified version of what is widely known as RegEx—short for “regular expressions.” RegEx is more powerful than Word’s version of it, but if you’re feeling geeky, you can actually use RegEx in Word—not in Word’s Find and Replace dialogs but in a macro. If you’re interested, you can learn more here:

I hope you find these wildcard secrets useful. If you’re just getting started with wildcards, please check out my in-depth book on the subject, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word (ISBN 978-1-4341-0398-7), available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other purveyors of fine technical literature.

Posted in Wildcards | Comments closed

Review: Geoff Hart’s Write Faster with Your Word Processor

I've been a fan of Geoff Hart’s books and articles since 2007, when I reviewed the first edition of his book Effective Onscreen Editing. The beauty of that book is that it applies to any software an editor might use. As Geoff explained then, “The overall goal is to teach editing strategies, not specific software.” However, in his latest book, Write Faster with Your Word Processor, Geoff changes his approach in three ways:

  • The book is aimed primarily at writers rather than editors, including writers of fiction. (Geoff is well known for his technical writing, but he’s also the author of several novels and short stories.)
  • The book focuses mainly on writing with Microsoft Word. Why? As Geoff explains, “I’ve provided Word-specific examples because most writers use Word. Moreover, I’ve learned from teaching many workshops that it’s necessary to make general strategies concrete, and Word does a great job of showing how to implement those strategies.”
  • The book isn’t as concerned with being effective as it is with being fast. It’s packed with useful tips and advice to help you spend less time fighting with your computer and more time actually writing. Geoff promises, “I’ll teach you how to improve your existing skills and learn new ones. As you master these skills, you’ll find yourself focusing more on the craft of writing and less on the tools themselves. That means you’ll write better and faster, with less need for revision.”

Like all of Geoff’s books, this one is thorough—I mean really thorough.

Part 1, “Get started,” explains how to personalize your computer to fit the way you work, with an emphasis on something many writers overlook: hardware. Geoff covers:

  • Choosing a good monitor.
  • Choosing a good keyboard.
  • Choosing a good mouse.

I can’t emphasize enough how important these are. But Geoff takes all of this a step further, covering your computer’s overall behavior, keyboard settings, mouse settings, language settings, and display settings. Then he explains how to organize your files, part of the book I'll be reading in more depth (not that I have any problems with organization). Finally, he talks about developing safeguards: security considerations, backing up your work, updating software, protecting your work with passwords, and protecting yourself from computer-related injury and other problems.

Part 2, “Write your first draft,” focuses on getting your words out of your head and into your word processor, again with an emphasis on speed. “Write first, edit later,” as the saying goes. Geoff explains in detail how to develop and use a strong outline (with a nod to those who prefer not to). Then he covers Microsoft Word’s features that are especially useful for writing (including some you probably don’t know about) as well as settings that you might want to change. Out of the box, Microsoft Word is set up to produce business memos and family newsletters; it is definitely not set up for serious writing. But the beauty of Word is that it’s practically infinitely customizable, so why not turn it into a lean, mean writing machine? Here, Geoff explains how.

I’m not going to go into much more detail about what the book includes; you’ll find a detailed table of contents on Geoff's website. I’ll just say that part 3 explains how to revise your writing once you’ve got it down (now it’s time to edit), and part 4 includes more detailed information and resources to help you back up your work and avoid stress injury, as well as a list of helpful keyboard shortcuts. The book ends with a glossary of publishing terms, a link to an online bibliography for those who want more information about a particular area, a collection of helpful internet resources, and an index that, like the rest of the book, is amazingly thorough.

Geoff writes, “My goal is NOT to teach you the writer’s craft; there are many better books for that purpose. The goal is NOT to teach you how Microsoft Word works; Word is just one of many alternatives you can use.” What, then, is the book’s purpose? “My goal,” Geoff says, “is to teach you how to write using a word processor.” And in that, he succeeds beautifully.

Write Faster With Your Word Processor is one of the most comprehensive books I’ve seen about how to write on the computer. At 352 pages (548 for the PDF version, which includes screen shots), it’s not for the faint of heart. But, as Geoff says, “I’ve provided the information in small chunks, designed for easy reading and browsing. You can dip into the book to solve a specific problem, or read it a chapter at a time to increase your mastery.” I’ll be keeping the book near at hand for those very purposes, and I recommend that you do the same.

Geoff makes it easy to buy the book. You can learn more here.

Bibliographic information: Hart, G. 2021. Write Faster With Your Word Processor. Diaskeuasis Publishing, Pointe-Claire, Quebec.

  • Printed version: 352 pages, including index. ISBN 978-1-927972-29-8
  • PDF version (suitable for most tablet computers and very large phones): 548 pages, including index. ISBN 978-1-927972-30-4
  • EPUB version: (unpaginated) ISBN 978-1-927972-31-1

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments closed

Review: Geoff Hart’s Effective Onscreen Editing, 3rd Edition

Back in 2007, I reviewed the first edition of Geoff Hart’s book Effective Onscreen Editing, which I still keep close at hand on my bookshelf. Why? Because it’s one of the best books ever written about how to edit on a computer, packed with real-world information you’ll find nowhere else.

My own books (such as Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word) are related specifically to a certain piece of software, but the beauty of Geoff’s book is that it applies to any software an editor might use, on either Macintosh or PC (or a Linux box, for that matter). As Geoff explains, “The overall goal is to teach editing strategies, not specific software.” And in that, the book succeeds admirably.

Geoff covers all of the essentials a working editor needs to consider, including the kind of technical matters that most interest me:

  • Personalizing your software
  • Navigating and selecting text
  • Inserting and deleting text
  • Tracking revisions
  • Using comments
  • Using search tools to improve consistency
  • Developing style sheets
  • Using spelling and grammar checkers
  • Automating editing tasks

He also covers business matters, such as:

  • Determining your pay rate
  • Negotiating with clients
  • Dealing with contracts

But Geoff also addresses the ever-important human side of the editing equation, discussing such matters as:

  • Encouraging dialogue and communication
  • Security and confidentiality
  • E-mail alternatives
  • Avoiding repetitive-stress injury and other physical problems

In this new edition, Geoff has added important information about recent developments that I’ve seen covered nowhere else:

  • Collaborative, real-time editing over the Web.
  • Important new software tools for imposing consistency and applying publisher style requirements.
  • Proofreading PDF files, online documents, and Web pages.

You’ll find more information about the new edition here. And you’ll find a detailed table of contents here.

If you’re a working editor, you owe it to yourself to buy and read this book, which is available in print, as a nicely formatted and hyperlinked PDF, and as an ebook (free with the PDF) for use with small tablets and smartphones. I make no money from the sale of this book; I'm just an ardent fan. As I said of the first edition, I give it my highest recommendation. And besides, as an excellent writer and a respected teacher known for generously sharing his expertise, Geoff deserves your support. You can purchase the book here.

Many thanks to Geoff for creating this wonderful resource.

Hart, G. 2016. Effective onscreen editing: new tools for an old profession. 3rd ed. Diaskeuasis Publishing, Pointe-Claire, Quebec.
Printed version: 518 p. ISBN 978-1-927972-04-5
PDF version (suitable for most table computers): 827 p. ISBN 978-1-927972-05-2
EPUB version: (unpaginated) ISBN 978-1-927972-06-9


Posted in Books, Editing Tools | Comments closed

Lyonizing Word: Before Typesetting

by Jack Lyon

I need your help, Gentle Reader. I need your ideas. Back in 1996, when I started selling Microsoft Word add-ins at the Editorium, getting a Word document into QuarkXPress was tricky: Quark was prone to crashes and didn’t handle footnotes at all. To solve these problems, I created QuarkConverter, and NoteStripper. A few years later, when people started switching to InDesign, I created InDesignConverter.

In the past several years, however, both QuarkXPress and InDesign have become much better at importing Word documents directly, without the need for a converter. The crashes are mostly gone, and footnotes come right on in. Nevertheless, I’m wondering what else might be done to a Word document to save time and trouble when importing into a layout program — and I’d greatly appreciate your thoughts about that. Here are some examples of the kind of thing I have in mind:

  • Add nonbreaking spaces to dates and initials.

For example, if the text includes a date like “August 17, 2016,” most typesetters want “August” and “17” to stay together; adding a nonbreaking space between the two elements does the trick. Similarly, if a name like “C. S. Lewis” shows up, it’s nice to keep the “C.” and the “S.” together. (To add a nonbreaking space in Word [Windows] 2007 and newer, hold down the CTRL and SHIFT keys as you press the spacebar. For Word [Mac], press the Option key as you press the spacebar.)

  • Remove formatting “overrides.”

Typesetters typically want to handle formatting with styles, so that changing a style attribute in InDesign automatically changes formatting throughout the document. If an author or editor has applied styles in a Word document, those styles can be imported and used in InDesign. But if an author or editor has applied direct formatting using various fonts, that formatting will be imported as “overrides” on the text, which can be a bit of a pain to clean up.

Override Options

Override Options

In its Styles pane, Microsoft Word offers to “Clear All” formatting and styles from selected text.

Clear All Option

Clear All Option

The problem is, “Clear All” really does mean “Clear All,” including not just font overrides but also such local formatting as bold and italic, which needs to remain intact. InDesign’s “Clear Overrides” feature has the same problem. Do you really want to remove italic formatting from the hundreds of journal titles in that giant manuscript you’re editing? If you’re proofreading or setting type, do you really want to put all that formatting back in again by hand? My FileCleaner add-in includes an often-overlooked feature (“standardize font formats”) that removes font overrides but leaves bold, italic, and other local formatting intact, which is exactly what’s needed.

Standardize Font Formats Option

Standardize Font Formats Option

  • Turn straight quotation marks into curly ones.

InDesign can do this—sort of. But it can’t handle things like “’Twas the night before Christmas” or “A miner, ’49er” (dreadful sorry, Clementine). FileCleaner does a much better job of dealing with this; it properly handles ’til, ’tis, ’tisn’t, ’twas, ’twasn’t, ’twould, ’twouldn’t, and ’em, as well as single quotation marks in front of numbers, all of which then come into InDesign correctly. If you have other items that should be included in this list, I’d love to know what they are.

  • Remove multiple spaces between sentences.

In the 1800s many books were set with extra space between sentences.

Sample of 1800s Typeset Page

Sample of 1800s Typeset Page

But, frankly, the 1800s were not exactly the golden age of typesetting.

1800s Poster

1800s Poster

Modern books include just one space between sentences. Still, many authors continue to use two, following the instructions they were given by their high-school typing teacher back in the twentieth century. And that means the double spaces need to be removed at some point. InDesign has built-in find-and-replace routines that will fix this and a few similar items.

InDesign Find & Replace

InDesign Find & Replace

FileCleaner, however, fixes many such things. And the version that’s included with Editor’s ToolKit Plus 2014 fixes many more.

FileCleaner Options

FileCleaner Options

  • Change italic and bold formatting to character styles.

Using character styles in InDesign provides much more stability and flexibility than local bold and italic formatting. It would be nice to have these styles already applied in Word before the document is imported into InDesign. My tools don’t currently do this, but they probably should.

QuarkConverter and InDesignConverter include some other useful fixes.

Quark Converter Options

Quark Converter Options


InDesign Converter Options

InDesign Converter Options

Nevertheless, I can’t help thinking that there must be things I’ve overlooked. I’m an editor, not a typesetter, so I don’t really know all of the things that typesetters have to fix that they really shouldn’t have to deal with. (This probably includes the most common errors that proofreaders mark.) So if you do typesetting or proofreading, would you help me out? I’d really like to know what I’m missing — things that could be cleaned up in an automated way in Microsoft Word before a document is ever imported into InDesign. What problems do you routinely encounter that you wish would go away? If you’ll let me know, I’ll try to come up with an add-in designed specifically to fix such things. Your suggestions for this would be most welcome.

Of course, typesetters and proofreaders aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this kind of cleanup. It’s also valuable to editors, allowing them to focus on words, structure, and meaning rather than deal with these tiny but pervasive problems. Little things like double spaces and straight quotation marks may not seem all that bothersome, but like pebbles in your shoe, they create subliminal annoyance that really adds up, making editing much more difficult than it should be. At least that’s my experience. What do you think?

Jack Lyon ( owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

Posted in Computers and Software, Contributor Article, Editing Tools, Lyonizing Word | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Responses

Lyonizing Word: Inside Notes

by Jack Lyon

As useful as they are, Microsoft Word’s footnotes and endnotes are amazingly easy to mess up. Let’s look at some ways that can happen — and how to fix the problems.

First, we need to open a document that has footnotes — or make one. Then, to really see what’s going on, we’ll do this:

  1. Click “View” and then “Draft.”

Click "View" then "Draft"

Click "View" then "Draft"

2. Click “References” and then “Show Notes.”

Click “References” and then “Show Notes”

Click “References” and then “Show Notes”

That should take you into Word’s “Notes Pane,” which should look something like this:

Word’s “Notes Pane"

Word’s “Notes Pane"

Deleted Reference Numbers

The superscript numbers in front of each note are called reference numbers. By default, they’re formatted with a character style — either Footnote Reference or Endnote Reference, which you can modify if necessary. What’s interesting about these numbers is that it’s possible to delete them, so the notes look like this:

Deleting Note Numbers

Deleting Note Numbers

Deleting them, however, is an extraordinarily bad idea. Those numbers may look simple, but under the hood they have a lot going on. The number itself is automatically generated based on the reference number in the text itself. (If you create footnote number 9 in your document, the note itself will start with the number 9. If you delete footnote number 9 in your document, the note and its number will be deleted.) The number also signals the start of a new note, and if it’s gone, document corruption is probably not far behind.

You can often tell if a reference number is missing by looking at the other note numbers. If they’re numbered like this, you know something’s wrong:

A Clue That Something Is Wrong

A Clue That Something Is Wrong

That’s actually a fairly easy problem to fix: just copy the reference number from one of the other notes and paste it in front of the note that’s missing its number. For example, if you copy the number for note 3 and paste it in front of the numberless note 2, you’ll actually get a 2 in front of the note. Microsoft Word is smart enough to know what the number should be.

Usually, the reason a number is missing is because the author has directly deleted the entire text of the note, like this:

When Note Is Deleted Directly

When Note Text Is Deleted Directly

Why Microsoft hasn’t prevented this is beyond me. If the author had deleted the note number up in the main document text, there wouldn’t be a problem.

Typed-In Reference Numbers

Sometimes, in an effort to make notes look “pretty” or meet a certain style, authors will format reference numbers as regular text rather than superscript, then type a period after them. There’s really nothing wrong with that, other than introducing extraneous periods when importing the file into a typesetting program. But some authors actually delete the numbers and type in new ones by hand. You can tell when that has been done by putting your cursor in front of a double-digit note number and pressing the right cursor key. If your cursor moves past the entire number, the number has been automatically generated. But if your cursor moves forward only one digit, the number has been hand-typed.

Again, you could fix the problem by copying an automatic number and pasting it over the hand-typed number, but what if all of the numbers have been hand-typed? Where will you get an automatic number to copy? Simple: just insert a new footnote and copy the number from that. After you’ve finished pasting, delete the extra note (up in the text, remember).

If you have lots of these numbers, you probably won’t want to fix them by hand, so here’s an easier way:

  1. Select all of the notes in the notes pane.
  2. Copy the notes.
  3. Paste the notes at the end of the document.
  4. Using Word’s Find and Replace feature, search for ^f (the code for footnotes) or ^e (the code for endnotes) and replace all of the existing note numbers with a superscript 1. (That will also delete all of the automatic notes in the document.)
  5. Use the “Text to Notes” feature of my trusty NoteStripper add-in to turn the text notes into automatically numbering ones.

“Special” Carriage Returns

Sometimes when editing notes, you’ll try to make a deletion and get the message that “This is not a valid action for footnotes”:



What that cryptic message should say is “You can’t delete the carriage return that ends a footnote.” The carriage return that marks the end of a note isn’t a regular return; it’s a special return, and you can’t delete it — Word won’t let you. So what often happens is that authors will delete the note text and its reference number, leaving the carriage return behind. But there is a way to get rid of that return: delete its note number up in the main text of the document. If you can’t tell which note number that is, copy the number of a different note and paste it in front of the note’s carriage return. That will give the note a proper number, and you can then delete the note up in the main text. If you have lots of these extraneous carriage returns, you can get rid of them with a macro, as described in “Lyonizing Word: Deleting Extraneous Carriage Returns in Footnotes and Endnotes.”

Microsoft, Are You Listening?

We wouldn’t have such problems with notes if Microsoft would implement just a few changes:

  1. Make it possible to delete a note by selecting the entire note, including the note reference number, the note text, and the “special” carriage return at the end of the note, and then pressing the Delete or Backspace key (which should also remove the note number from the main text). That would keep authors from leaving behind misnumbered notes and extraneous carriage returns.
  2. Provide additional numbering options for the reference numbers in front of the note text, in particular the option to use full-sized numbers followed by a period. That would keep authors from typing in numbers and periods by hand (maybe).
  3. When trying to delete the reference number or carriage return, provide a message that says “Select the entire note before deleting” or “To remove a note, delete the note number in the main text of your document.”

These changes would do a lot to prevent problems caused by authors who don’t know how to properly use Word’s notes. You can help by letting Microsoft know about these needed changes. Give your feedback at Microsoft’s “Welcome to Word’s Suggestion Box!

What about you? Have you seen other odd problems with Word’s notes? If so, how have you solved them?

Jack Lyon ( owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals, Wildcard Cookbook for Microsoft Word, and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

Posted in Computers and Software, Contributor Article, Editing Tools, Editorial Matters, Lyonizing Word | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Responses