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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Taylor

How To Save Time Editing Using Macros In Word


a hand holding a red pencil making corrections to a page

Macros - What are they, and how are they helpful to editors?


Let me start by saying that I’m not an expert on macros, and everything that follows, I have learned from either Paul Beverley’s Macros for Editors or Rabbit With a Red Pen. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here; some of the passages are copied directly from their material. 


What are macros?

A macro is a small computer program written in the Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) language that you install into Microsoft Word. They are programming scripts that allow you to automate tasks. A macro can make an incredibly complex task into the work of a single mouse click or keyboard shortcut.


How is using macros in Word helpful to editors?

Macros are handy tools for editors as they help automate repetitive tasks and streamline the editing process. By creating macros, editors can save time and effort by recording a series of actions and then executing them with a simple click of a button. This can be particularly helpful when working on large documents or when needing to apply the same edits consistently across multiple pieces of content. In addition, macros can also help ensure accuracy and consistency in formatting, making the editing process more efficient and effective. 


1) Greater accuracy

Computers are good at making repetitive changes – they don’t get bored and tired and then miss things.

2) Greater speed

Not only can they speed up the repetitive jobs, but while you are reading, you can use them to make small changes so that you can maintain your focus on the meaning of the text.

3) More enjoyment

If the computer is doing the boring bits, you can enjoy the challenge of engaging with the text, improving how the ideas are communicated, and just reading an interesting book!


That’s great, but how do I use macros in real life?

If you’re new to macros, like me, try downloading Paul Beverley’s document called “Macros from Square One” from his Word Macro Tools website. This is a basic introduction to macros, including how to load them and assign keyboard shortcuts. Following the step-by-step guide, it is relatively straightforward. It can depend on whether you are using a Mac or PC and the version of MS Word you are using. 


Firstly, you have to install a macro. ‘Installing a macro’ just means copying the code and pasting it in the correct place; nothing more technical than that.


With a Word document open on the screen, open the Macros dialogue box by selecting the View tab in the ribbon at the top of the document and clicking on the Macros icon. If you have an earlier version of Word that doesn’t have a Macro icon or a View tab on the document’s ribbon, then on the Word menu at the very top of the screen, select Tools > Macro > Macros.


I also recommend using one of the guides below, written by Jennifer Yankopolus, Karen Cox And Paul Beverley.


Macros from Square One (Mac) 


Macros from Square One (PC) 


Tip: Macro keyboard shortcuts - check that they have been assigned. Look under Tools - Customise Keyboard. (common keyboard shortcuts are Command+S to save your work and Command+P to print.)


Here are some of Paul’s macros that I think are useful for editors and proofreaders:


ProperNounAlyse - Using macros to check for consistency.

If you run ProperNounAlyse, the computer will produce a list of pairs of proper nouns that look as if they might be variant spellings of one another, e.g. Beverly/Beverley.


InstantFindDown(Up) – If you want to look at the previous or next occurrence of a word or phrase, InstantFind will take you straight to it – with one single click. The macro also loads this word/phrase into the Find box so that you can use Word’s own Ctrl-PageUp and Ctrl-PageDown to go through the various occurrences of this text.


CountPhrase allows you to select a word or phrase, and it tells you how often this occurs in the text. This helps you to maintain consistency because, for example, you can very quickly check if something is spelt in either of two variant ways. But it also does both case-sensitive and case-insensitive counts, so you can see if it is capitalised differently in different parts of the document. (Also, the macro, HyphenSpaceWordCount, counts the number of occurrences of, say, cow-bell, cowbell and cow bell.)


NumberToText Speed-editing macro - NumberToText converts a number (numeral) to text. 19 turns into nineteen.


Paul’s Macro Menu (PDF), which is also linked in the “Macros from Square One” doc, lists and links to all his brilliant macros.


Final thoughts

It can seem overwhelming and out of your reach when you start to look into macros, but like with learning anything new, it is worth it. That steep learning curve soon flattens out, and you will be excited to see what other macros there are to streamline your process.

Overall, I think that macros are valuable tools for editors and proofreaders looking to boost their productivity and focus on the creative aspects of their work. Why not give it a go?


Acknowledgements: Big thanks to the wonderful human beings willing to share their expertise and resources freely with newbies like me. I have a lot to learn!

Jennifer Yankopolus, jennifer@wordcollaborative.com, Karen Cox, and

Paul Beverley, paul@wordmacrotools.com 

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