Edit First, Check Later

By Jack Lyon, the Editorium

The world is awash with software designed to improve your writing, and this software can be particularly valuable to editors. Here are some of the current contenders:

PerfectIt from IntelligentEditing


But good grief, how many grammar and spelling checkers do we need? And what is the best way to use them?

I'm going to offer a radical suggestion: Don't use any such checkers until after you've finished editing. That's right: edit first, check later. Otherwise, you'll be swamped with suggestions and corrections, and you'll need to consider every one. Here's an example from Lingofy:


Do you really want to work your way through all of that?

Similarly, when you're using Word's spellchecker (now part of its "Editor" feature), every time you encounter a misspelling, you'll need to choose what to do with it:

  • Ignore Once
  • Ignore All
  • Change One
  • Change All
  • Add to Dictionary

Do you do that? Do you slog through a manuscript responding to each possible misspelling that Word finds? Stop it! Instead, fix as many misspellings as possible before running the spellchecker, using a batch operation that requires no intervention from you. The best way I know to do that is with my MegaReplacer program, which is included with Editor's ToolKit Plus. The program comes with a long list of corrections ready for you to use, including many words that are commonly misspelled—more than 500 in all. Here are a few examples:


MegaReplacer automatically fixes all of those so you don't have to. After it's finished, then you can run the checker of your choice to catch any odditites or stragglers that weren't in your list.

Word's spell-checker is a terrific tool for finding random typographical errors, but if you’re using it to find common misspellings, you’re wasting your valuable time. After all, you already know they’re misspellings; why not fix them all in one go? Let MegaReplacer correct any possible occurrences while you take a break or work on something else. Then, if you want to catch typos, run a spell-check after fixing misspellings with MegaReplacer, and you’ll have far fewer errors to deal with.

Similarly, the PerfectIt add-in from Intelligent Editing is wonderful, and you should definitely use it to ensure consistency. But if you already know that your house style specifies, say, healthcare rather than health care, you don’t need PerfectIt to point out deviations. Just use MegaReplacer to fix them all. Then use PerfectIt to find other inconsistencies that might not be on your radar.

Here are the basic steps I recommend for editing a manuscript:

  1. Run FileCleaner (also included with Editor's ToolKit Plus) to clean up multiple spaces, multiple returns, spaces around returns, misplaced punctuation, unnecessary formatting, and so on.
  2. Run MegaReplacer to fix common misspellings and enforce editorial style for special terms.
  3. Apply heading styles so you can see your document's structure and more easily find your way around as you edit.
  4. Edit the text, using your brain as the ultimate checker.
  5. Finally, run the checkers of your choice to catch problems the previous steps might have missed.

Use the checkers. Just don't let them use you!

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