A Brief Overview of Adobe Acrobat’s Spell-Check Tool

Adobe has noticeably improved the editing tools in the most recent versions of Acrobat Pro and Acrobat Standard. The tools feel more fluid and integrated into the user interface than they did in previous versions; and while they aren’t as intuitive as Microsoft Word’s Track Changes, Acrobat’s text comments, highlight comments, and sticky notes (shown below) actually provide quite a bit more flexibility than Word does.

Acrobat Comment Examples

Plus, Adobe’s subscription-based pricing options have significantly lowered the threshold for accessing the company’s professional programs individually or as a software suite. However, before you wave goodbye to Word, note that Acrobat’s spell-check tool is still quite limited because Adobe assumes that the majority of text-heavy PDF files were originally written and edited in another program.

Currently, Acrobat’s spell-check tool reviews comments, sticky notes, form fields, and editable text boxes (which are technically comments). It doesn’t check content written in another program or created with the Add Text tool. If you want to spell-check regular text, you have to install a third-party script or rely on outside software. (One option is to simultaneously view the document in Acrobat and Word in a split screen.)

I am hopeful that Adobe will eventually provide Acrobat users with comprehensive spell-check capabilities. In the meantime, here are the steps to access the existing spell-check tool in Acrobat XI:

  1. Select Edit.
  2. Select Check Spelling.
  3. Select In Comments, Fields, & Editable Text.
  4. Select Start in the Check Spelling window.

Acrobat Check Spelling Window

 

Erin Wright is a freelance copy editor and writer in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, marketing material, web copy, technical content, and nonfiction.

Tips for Removing Unwanted Settings in Microsoft Word’s Spelling and Grammar Check

When you inherit a Word document, the original author’s settings can affect the document even when you open it on your own computer. These lingering and potentially unwanted settings may prevent you from receiving a complete spelling and grammar check.

Here are four quick tips to help you improve your spelling and grammar check results even if the document was originally created by that peculiar guy in the office who enjoys tweaking the settings on everything from software to the microwave in the lunchroom.

Please note that these steps are for Word 2013; however, the steps are similar for Word 2010 and Word 2007.

Tip 1: Review Your Language Settings

  1. Press Ctrl+A to select the entire document.
  2. Select Review.
  3. Select Language and then Set Proofing Language.
  4. Ensure that English is highlighted and Do not check spelling or grammar is not checked. Just to be on the safe side, also consider unchecking Detect language automatically.
  5. Select OK to save your changes.

Word 2013 Language Window

Tip 2: Review Your Proofing Settings

  1. Select File and then Options.
  2. Select Proofing in the Word Options window.
  3. Review all of your proofing settings. Confirm that Ignore words in UPPERCASE is not checked because titles, headers, footers, and table data often appear in uppercase but should still be spell-checked. In addition, ensure that Hide spelling errors in this document only and Hide grammar errors in this document only are also unchecked.
  4. Select Settings if you would like to explore additional grammar and style choices.
  5. Select OK to save your changes.

Word 2013 Word Options Screen

Tip 3: Run a Fresh Spelling and Grammar Check

  1. Select File and then Options.
  2. Select Proofing in the Word Options window.
  3. Select Recheck Document and then select Yes when the dialog box asks if you want to continue.
  4. Select OK in the Word Options window.
  5. Select Review and then Spelling & Grammar to run a fresh spelling and grammar check.

Word 2013 Spelling&Grammar on Ribbon

Tip 4: Search for Hidden Formatting

If you believe that Word’s spelling and grammar check is performing improperly within a specific section, such as a header, footer, or table, you can use the Reveal Formatting function to uncover any hidden formatting that may be affecting that section.

  1. Select the entire section.
  2. Press Shift+F1 to open the Reveal Formatting task pane.
  3. Review the settings listed under the language heading.
  4. Select LANGUAGE if you need to open the Language window in order to change a setting.

Word 2013 Reveal Formatting Pane
Hopefully these simple steps will help you thwart undesirable Word settings. Now, figuring out how to turn off the potato setting on the lunchroom microwave is a whole other matter…

 

Erin Wright is a freelance copy editor and writer in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, marketing material, web copy, technical content, and nonfiction.

Band Names and Subject-Verb Agreement

Dog Listening to Music

Last week we covered subject-verb agreement for sports teams with singular names such as the Chicago Fire and the Colorado Avalanche. This week we’ll tackle a more complicated subject: band names and subject-verb agreement.

While two of our primary reference materials, The Associated Press Stylebook 2014 and The Chicago Manual of Style, offer relatively clear guidance for sports teams, those same sources are less helpful on the issue of band names.1

The Associated Press Stylebook 2014 says that we should pair non-plural group names with plural verbs but then goes on to say that many singular names (such as Coldplay) still take singular verbs.2 Confusing!

Meanwhile, the print edition of The Chicago Manual of Style doesn’t address the issue at all, but its online counterpart refers to the band the Who as they in an example sentence for band capitalization, which (informally) indicates that singular band names can be treated as plural—and can be paired with plural verbs.3

So, what are writers, editors, and music lovers to do? When referencing bands with plural names (e.g., the Beatles, the Eagles, Mumford & Sons), the obvious choice is to use a plural verb. When referencing bands with singular names (e.g., ZZ Top, BlackHawk, Metallica), choose verbs based on pronoun usage throughout the rest of the content.

For example, if you are going to write “Aerosmith is a good band,” the singular verb is works just fine. However, if you are going to write “Aerosmith is a good band. They have sold more than 150 million albums,” then the verb is no longer works because it conflicts with the plural pronoun they. But, you can continue to use they if you recast the first sentence with the plural verb are: “Aerosmith are a good band. They have sold more than 150 million albums.”

Of course, another option is to refer to the band as it instead of they: “Aerosmith is a good band. It has sold more than 150 million albums.” But realistically, most of us are too emotionally connected with music to refer to a band as it.

Rock on!

Erin Wright is a freelance copy editor and writer in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, marketing material, web copy, technical content, and nonfiction.

__________________________

1. Darrell Christian et al., eds. The Associated Press Stylebook (New York: The Associated Press, 2014) 50.

“Chicago Style Q&A,” The Chicago Manual of Style Online, accessed September 10, 2014, http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/Plurals.html.

2. Darrell Christian et al., eds. The Associated Press Stylebook (New York: The Associated Press, 2014) 50.

3. “Chicago Style Q&A,” The Chicago Manual of Style Online, accessed September 12, 2014, http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/CapitalizationTitles.html?page=1.

Sports Teams and Subject-Verb Agreement

English Bulldog Puppy with Soccer BallThe Chicago Fire are playing the Houston Dynamo next weekend.

You may have noticed that the sentence above says Fire are instead of Fire is even though the word fire is singular. This idiosyncrasy isn’t limited to Chicago or professional soccer. In modern English, sports teams are paired with plural verbs even if their names are singular:*

The Colorado Avalanche are headed to training camp.

The Minnesota Wild were in the lead at the start of the third period.

The Colorado Mammoth have a cute mascot named Wooly.

However, when those same teams are referred to by their location (e.g., Chicago, Colorado, Minnesota) or as a general collective noun (e.g., the team, the defense, the offense), they follow traditional subject-verb agreement:

The team was excited to play in the new stadium.

The defense is falling apart!

Chicago has the edge going into the playoffs.

Next time, we’ll explore the more complicated issue of band names and subject-verb agreement. (Should we write “ZZ Top are” or “ZZ Top is”?)

 

Erin Wright is a freelance copy editor and writer in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, marketing material, web copy, technical content, and nonfiction.

__________________________

*Darrell Christian et al., eds. The Associated Press Stylebook (New York: The Associated Press, 2014) 50.

“Chicago Style Q&A,” The Chicago Manual of Style Online, accessed September 10, 2014, http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/qanda/data/faq/topics/Plurals.html.

Am I a Copyeditor or a Copy Editor?

Two devils debating copy editor versus copyeditor

I have been involved with the copyediting community for over a decade. That’s long enough to have witnessed epic online battles over the serial comma and near fisticuffs at the suggestion that they should be a gender-neutral singular pronoun. (Believe me; no one wants to witness actual grammar-induced fisticuffs. That would just be embarrassing…not to mention the danger of broken eyeglasses.)

I can’t explain why a community with such passion for precision doesn’t insist on a consistent spelling for our profession as a noun and as a verb. In fact, we don’t even have a consensus among our most dog-eared reference materials. Here is a rundown of where several of those reference materials stand on the issue.

The Noun—Copy Editor or Copyeditor?

Those in favor of copy editor:
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary1
The Associated Press Stylebook 20142
Oxford English Dictionary3

Those in favor of copyeditor:
The Chicago Manual of Style4
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association5
The American Heritage Dictionary6

The Verb—Copyedit, Copy Edit, or Copy-edit?

Those in favor of copyedit:
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary7
The Chicago Manual of Style8
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association9

Those in favor of copy edit:
The Associated Press Stylebook 201410

Those in favor of copy-edit:
Oxford English Dictionary11

Those in favor of copyedit or copy-edit:
The American Heritage Dictionary12

So, which spelling should you choose in the face of such divergence? As with all things style-related, there is no right or wrong answer, so make an informed decision based on your preferred reference materials. I personally follow Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and The Chicago Manual of Style but will always defer to clients’ official dictionaries or in-house style guides.

Still, I think we copy editors should have a competition with the copyeditors for naming rights to our profession. A winner-takes-all game of grammar trivia is the obvious choice, but it would never work because we would never agree on the correct answers. Maybe a thumb-wrestling contest?

 

Erin Wright is a freelance copy editor and writer in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, marketing material, web copy, technical content, and nonfiction.

________________________________

  1. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., s.v. “copy editor.”
  2. Darrell Christian et al., eds. The Associated Press Stylebook (New York: The Associated Press, 2014) 62.
  3. Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v., “copy editor,” accessed September 5, 2014, http://www.oed.com.gatekeeper.chipublib.org/view/Entry/41299?redirectedFrom=copy+editor#eid8353802. (Please note that this website is only accessible with membership.)
  4. University of Chicago Press. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) 378.
  5. American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association) 239.
  6. The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th ed., s.v. “copyeditor.”
  7. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., s.v. “copyedit.”
  8. University of Chicago Press. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) 70.
  9. See note 5 above.
  10. See note 2 above.
  11. Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v., “copy-edit,” accessed September 5, 2014, http://www.oed.com.gatekeeper.chipublib.org/view/Entry/41299?redirectedFrom=copy+edit#eid8353806. (Please note that this website is only accessible with membership.)
  12. The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th ed., s.v. “copyedit.”

How to Edit Your Ignored Words and Phrases in WordPress

WordPress Ignore Always Option

Here’s the scenario: You’ve written and edited the perfect blog post in Microsoft Word, so you copy it into WordPress for publication. Just to be on the safe side, you run the Proofread Writing tool before clicking the publish button. WordPress tells you that the name of your beta project, WackiFeet, is spelled incorrectly throughout the post. But, you know that the spelling is correct, so you choose to Ignore always, which adds WackiFeet to your site-wide Ignored Phrases list. Later on, you regret this decision because the project’s name may change before the official launch.

Instead of accepting an imperfect Ignored Phrases list, you can edit the list in four easy steps:

1. After logging into your WordPress account, select Users and then Your Profile.

WordPress User Profile

2. Select the X next to any unwanted words listed under Ignored Phrases.

WordPress Ignored Phrases List

3. If necessary, add new words into the text box above the Ignored Phrases list.

Add Ignored Phrases in WordPress

4. Click Update Profile at the bottom of the page to save your changes.

Update WordPress User Profile

Please note that the Ignored Phrases list only applies to words you ignore while using the Proofread Writing tool shown below. Proofread Writing is part of the Jetpack by WordPress.com plugin available to both WordPress.com and WordPress.org users. (WordPress itself no longer includes a spell-check tool.)

WordPress Proofread Writing

If you notice that your content is automatically spell-checked before using the Proofread Writing tool, then your browser is probably set to automatically spell-check anything entered into a text box. In that case, you can choose Add to Dictionary or a similar option to add words to your browser’s custom dictionary file; however, that file can’t be edited through WordPress.

If you crave even more control over your personal dictionaries, check out How to Edit Your Custom Dictionary in Microsoft Word.

 

Erin Wright is a freelance copy editor and writer in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, marketing material, web copy, technical content, and nonfiction.

Gloriously Grammatically Incorrect Song Titles—Classic Rock Edition

rock and roll cats and dogs

Just a bit of fun this week…

Last month, satirical musician “Weird Al” Yankovic shook up the usually sedate writing community with his song “Word Crimes.” Some writers and editors felt the song promoted grammar shaming, while others accepted it as parody—not as a legitimate teaching tool. In fact, a few of the issues “Weird Al” criminalized aren’t really grammar offenses at all, and his own apostrophe use is frequently incorrect throughout the video. Still, I applaud the song for igniting debate in both creative and business circles.

In honor of the often tenuous relationship between grammar and music, here are a few of my favorite classic rock song titles that commit two common misdemeanors: using lay instead of lie and double negatives.

Lay versus Lie

In the present tense, lay means the subject of the clause places something or someone in a horizontal position, and lie means the subject places himself or herself in a horizontal position. So, Eric Clapton’s song “Lay Down Sally” should actually be “Lie Down Sally” because Sally is the subject of the clause and she must lie down herself.

Bob Dylan also stumbled over lay versus lie in his song “Lay Lady Lay,” which should be “Lie Lady Lie,” because (like Sally) Lady must lie down herself. (However, I’m not going to be the copyeditor that tells Mr. Dylan that he has stumbled over anything.)

Double Negatives

A double negative occurs when two negatives (e.g., no, can’t, don’t) appear in the same clause. Double negatives are grammatically incorrect because they unintentionally turn negative statements into positives. But we all know that the Rolling Stones weren’t actually achieving that elusive satisfaction when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The venerable rockers could have avoided the double negative by writing “(I Can’t Get Any) Satisfaction.” (But rock fans everywhere are glad they didn’t because that extra syllable would have thrown off the rhythm of the song, not to mention the grit.)

Other famous double negative songs include “Don’t Ask Me No Questions” by Lynyrd Skynyrd and “Don’t Come Around Here No More” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Please stay tuned for an upcoming country version of “Gloriously Grammatically Incorrect Song Titles.” In the meantime, here are a few music-related posts you may have missed:

These Songs “Ain’t” Wrong—A Personal Thought on Irregular Grammar in Music

Top Ten Unsung Songwriters

Top Ten Songs about Writers and Writing

 

Erin Wright is a freelance editor and writer in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, marketing material, web copy, and technical content.

How to Abbreviate United States (according to a Confusing Set of Guidelines)

Rural Scene with American Flag

The individual cities, counties, and states within the United States have very definite borders. We also have relatively firm definitions of our geographic regions, such as the Midwest and the Northeast. Unfortunately, we don’t have such fixed boundaries for abbreviating our country’s name. In fact, the sheer number of conflicting guidelines can make you feel like you’ve driven right off the (grammar) map!

Much of this confusion stems from differences between the primary style manuals, as demonstrated below.

The U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual

The U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual says that United States should be spelled out unless it is used as an adjective for Government (intentionally capitalized), a government agency, or a general noun, in which case the abbreviation should include periods. However, if the sentence contains the name of another country, the abbreviation should not be used even if United States is used as an adjective.1

The Beatles arrived in the United States in 1964.

The U.S. Government mints coins in Colorado, Pennsylvania, California, and New York.

The U.S. Supreme Court is in recess.

Farmers account for two percent of the U.S. population.

All United States citizens need a passport to visit Canada.

The Chicago Manual of Style

The Chicago Manual of Style agrees that United States should be spelled out when it is used as a noun and formatted as an abbreviation when it is used as an adjective. The biggest differences between Chicago and the U.S. Government Printing Office are (1) Chicago allows for abbreviation even if the name of another country appears in the sentence and (2) Chicago recommends US unless the document in question has a strong tradition of using periods in all of its abbreviations.2

The Beatles arrived in the United States in 1964.

The US government mints coins in Colorado, Pennsylvania, California, and New York.

The US Supreme Court is in recess.

Farmers account for two percent of the US population.

All US citizens need a passport to visit Canada.

The Associated Press Stylebook

The situation gets even stickier when we add The Associated Press Stylebook into the mix because it says that the abbreviation can be used as both a noun and an adjective as long as the abbreviation includes periods within text and excludes periods in headlines. In addition, the Associated Press says that we can use USA, in which case we should never include periods in text or in headlines.3

The Beatles arrived in the USA in 1964. (In text)

The Beatles Arrive in the USA (Headline style)

The U.S. government mints coins in Colorado, Pennsylvania, California, and New York. (In text)

The US Supreme Court is in Recess (Headline style)

Farmers account for two percent of the U.S. population. (In text)

All U.S. citizens need a passport to visit Canada. (In text)

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association

Lastly, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association simply says that we should use the abbreviation with periods when United States is acting as an adjective.4

The Beatles arrived in the United States in 1964.

The U.S. government mints coins in Colorado, Pennsylvania, California, and New York.

The U.S. Supreme Court is in recess.

Farmers account for two percent of the U.S. population.

All U.S. citizens need a passport to visit Canada.

Is your head spinning yet? Mine sure is! But as with all things stylistic, the best course of action is to choose the guideline that best fits your unique content—and then stick with it. Sure, that means that your competitors may write US when you write U.S., but that doesn’t matter nearly as much as maintaining consistency throughout all of your documentation.

________________
1. U.S. Government Printing Office. U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008) 222-23.

2. University of Chicago Press. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) 500.

3. Darrell Christian et al., eds. The Associated Press Stylebook (New York: The Associated Press, 2014) 265-66.

4. American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association) 88.

 

Erin Wright is a freelance editor and writer in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, marketing material, web copy, and technical content.

Gendered Pronouns for Animals

Mr. Heckle and Mr. Jeckle

I am owned by two feline brothers officially named Mr. Heckle and Mr. Jeckle. I have several additional monikers for each of them, including Big Guy, Little Guy, Tuffy, and Flying J., just to name a few. One thing I never call them is it. And I know that I’m not alone: most animal lovers use gendered pronouns (e.g., he and she) when referring to pets.

But are we just personifying our furry friends? Maybe! However, most of our primary writing manuals agree that animals can be much more than an it. In fact, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (known as APA style) says that animals with names should be assigned gendered pronouns,1 while The Associated Press Stylebook(known as AP style) says that animals with names or known gender should be assigned gendered pronouns.2

Bones enjoys napping and playing with his cat toys. (APA and AP style)

The mare walks in the field with her foal. (AP style)

A bear left its paw prints in the snow. (APA and AP style)

The Chicago Manual of Style (known as Chicago style) is less specific, but it does suggest that non-human nouns (including ships and other water vessels) can be given gendered pronouns. Interestingly, Chicago clearly states that the use of it doesn’t mean that the subject or object doesn’t have a gender, only that the gender is unknown and doesn’t matter in the context of the sentence; therefore, we can refer to human babies as it in certain circumstances.3 (Strange, I know!) I’m going to assume that this means that Chicago agrees with both the APA and AP on the animal issue.

I wanted to be sure that I researched this topic as thoroughly as possible, so I also consulted with Mr. Heckle and Mr. Jeckle. They said that they don’t give a hairball about pronouns, but they want a treat—right now.

_______________________

1. American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association) 80.

2. Darrell Christian et al., eds. The Associated Press Stylebook (New York: The Associated Press, 2014) 15.

3. University of Chicago Press. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010) 214-215.

 

Erin Wright is a freelance editor and writer in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business documents, marketing collateral, web copy, instructional material, and technical content.

 

Four Tips to Boost Your Writing Speed

race car

In a perfect world, we would all have time to write while leisurely sipping an iced hazelnut latte on a beachside veranda. But in the real world, we sometimes have to gulp down that latte (double shot, of course) while writing on a deadline, nowhere near the sand and surf. Here are a few tips that may help you boost your writing speed and meet that deadline:

Start at the beginning—or the middle—or the end. Writing doesn’t have to be linear. Start recording your ideas regardless of where those ideas may end up in the final document. If that means writing the conclusion first, no worries, you can always update the conclusion later on if your message shifts as you develop the remaining content. The most important thing is to start writing—right now. Which leads us to…

Stop copyediting while you’re writing the first draft! That old saying “clean as you go” may increase productivity in the kitchen, but it doesn’t apply to content creation. While you’re writing your first draft, don’t worry about spelling, subject-verb agreement, or sentence structure. The formal editing process can begin after you’ve roughed out your message.

Break the project into timely chunks. Rather than trying to finish an entire project in one limitless, mind-numbing writing session, divide it into manageable chunks of time followed by breaks. For example, work on a specific section for thirty minutes followed by a ten minute break. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish in a mere thirty minutes when you’re only thinking about one section rather than an entire document.

Experiment with different writing tools. If you’re more prolific holding a pen than typing on a laptop, then by all means, write the old-fashioned way! Even if that means transferring your handwritten work to the computer later on, you’ll still save time by fast-tracking that first draft. Conversely, if you’re more comfortable using a virtual keyboard, there’s no rule that says you can’t do serious writing on a tablet (or even on a smartphone, if it has appropriate software and memory).

Do you have any additional tactics for improving your writing speed and productivity? I’d love to hear about them in the comment section below!

 

Erin Wright is a freelance writer and editor in Chicago, Illinois. She specializes in business and creative content.