Hand-editing: The Typing

Like a lot of the world, I use Word as my primary editor. It is the first word processor I really used (Word 6.0… I did some writing in a DOS-based text editor the name of which I can’t remember. I do have a soft spot in my heart for orange text on a black background, though.)

In any case, my time in Word when editing is split between typing in hand-written changes and actually doing the editing right there in the document. Mostly I try to do the first–I work slower on paper, so I think more about what I’m doing, which is a good thing.

Since I work with computers all day, I’m also pretty keyboard driven. Mostly my writing is just plain text, so there isn’t a lot of crazy formatting work that needs to get done. The following short-cuts and tactics help speed me through my typing work:

  • Ctrl+arrow keys – This is my primary navigation in the doc. Right/left moves you over words, up/down moves paragraphs. Hold down Shift while you’re at it, and selecting the text you want becomes a breeze. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard for me watching someone move around with just the raw arrow keys.

  • Ctrl+S – Save! I hit this without even thinking about it. Pause for any reason? My fingers blindly hit save without me having to get involved.

  • Context menu key – a lot of newer keyboards have a key that essentially does a right-click. This is hugely useful, since it means I can get a context menu without having to touch the mouse. In Word specifically, it’s really great in conjunction with the red squiggles under misspelled words. When I see that I’ve typed something wrong, rather than fixing it myself, I just back up a couple characters, tap the context menu key and generally the first item will be the corrected word. Because of this, I rarely if ever actually run the full spell-checker.

  • Grammar check – now I know, the grammar checking is rather basic and often gets confused. However, when I’m editing I’ll often change tense or shuffle words in other ways that make it easy to mis-type and screw up a sentence. I leave the grammar checking on since a lot of times if it highlights a sentence I’ll have dropped a word or changed something I shouldn’t have.

That’s the round-up of the most important things I use in Word.

Word Delta: -250 from editing, +3200 rewritten