Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Checking for Consistency and Style Preferences

Do you prefer ‘email’ or ‘e-mail’? How about ‘advisor’ or ‘adviser’? Or ‘UN’ and U.N.’? When you’re using numbers in the middle of a sentence, do you write ‘thirty-six’ or ‘36’? And when you’re referring to the leader of a company, is it ‘the president’ or ‘the President’?
I don’t want to burst your ego, but (in case you haven’t already guessed) the truth is that your personal preferences are not important! Instead, what matters is:
  1. You must be consistent. The most important thing is that stick to one form. Write either ‘co-ordination’ or ‘coordination’, but don’t use them both in the same document.
  2. If you’re working with a style manual, you must follow its guidance. There may be a rule for the document / client that you’re working with, and if so, you need to follow that.
As explained in our Proofreading and Editing course, PerfectIt is inexpensive, and it’s the fastest way to ensure consistency. It checks consistency of hyphenation, capitalisation, abbreviations, spelling, numbers in sentences, list punctuation, table headings and much more. It’s possible to check all those things manually. However, it’s difficult (and very time-consuming) to keep track of them. So for professionals who need to ensure the highest degree of accuracy (especially when working under time pressure), it makes sense to use PerfectIt. That’s why more than 250 members of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders have purchased PerfectIt.
However, what many PerfectIt users don’t realise is that the software can also be used to check style preferences. It involves a bit of customisation, but it doesn’t cost a penny extra. With just a small time investment, you can turn PerfectIt from a consistency checker into a check for any organisation’s house style. Even better, you can store multiple house styles, so you can use PerfectIt to check a different style for each client that you work with.

The best way to start building a style sheet is to make use of one of our existing PerfectIt style sheets. These are free from our website. Available styles are US, UK, Canadian and Australian spelling, as well as European Union, United Nations, and World Health Organization style sheets. The styles are available at: http://www.intelligentediting.com/downloadstyles.aspx

To start using one of the style sheets, save them to your hard disk. Then import the files into PerfectIt (click PerfectIt’s “Customize” menu, choose “Advanced” and then ”Import”). Then select the file that you just downloaded. When PerfectIt starts, you’ll see a dropdown list and you can choose the style sheet that you want from there. Now your version of PerfectIt checks those preferences as well as checking for consistency. For example, if you chose the UK spelling sheet, it will automatically locate all instances of the word “theater” and suggest “theatre.” The UK spelling sheet has more than 800 words programmed into it already (as well as all the variations of “ISE” such as “civilisation” instead of “civilization”).

And you don’t have to stop there. Now that you’ve downloaded a style sheet, you can also customise it. We’ve written three user guides that show you how you can add words to a style, change settings and make any other changes you want. Click to read the guides now

Remember, customising PerfectIt is not necessary. You can download and install it to check consistency right away. However, when you can find the time to create style sheets, it’s a powerful extra feature that doesn’t cost a thing. It saves time and it helps you to deliver better documents for your clients

Daniel Heuman designed and developed PerfectIt. He is the Managing Director of Intelligent Editing.

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