PerfectIt 4.1: Editors Into Educators

By Daniel Heuman

A Game Changer for In-House Editors

The new version of PerfectIt is a bigger deal than that “.1” suggests. As with any new software version, it has lots of small fixes and improvements. However, it has one huge new capability. For the first time, you can control exactly what PerfectIt checks. Now you can turn PerfectIt into a custom checker designed (by you) to lift writing standards at your organization.

If you edit documents at an organization, you are the best person to help colleagues improve their writing. You see the mistakes that people make. So you are ideally placed to help them stay on brand, write sensitively, and follow house style. With PerfectIt 4.1, we give you the tools to use that knowledge and help colleagues in new and exciting ways.

Before today, PerfectIt was too complicated for many non-professionals to understand. But now you can control exactly what it finds. You can set it so that simple improvements are checked by authors while complex contextual decisions are left to the editor. You can even add your own notes to educate colleagues and improve their writing.

But why should it be your job to lift writing standards? Isn’t there enough that you already do?

Editors Can’t Check Everything

There’s more to editing than being everyone’s mistake finder. Consider:

  • There is probably a lot of text at your organization that you won’t be able to edit personally.
  • Reducing the errors in documents that arrive at your desk will reduce the number of errors that make it into publication (even the best editors will only find 95% of errors in a readthrough).
  • Every second that you can save fixing basic errors gives you more time to focus on what matters most: the text and its meaning.

Imagine the improvement in document quality if there were a way to use your knowledge and experience to improve everyone’s writing. With PerfectIt 4.1, we help you achieve that. Editors can be so much more than mistake finders!

But If I Improve Their Writing, I’ll Lose My Job

I understand this concern. I know an editor who lost her position because she did such a good job at creating templates, the company decided they didn’t need her anymore. Seriously. That happened.

But really? Do you believe that improving writing among your colleagues could cost you your job? Think about this:

  • Which job is more vulnerable: the mistake fixer who sits in the corner and waits for work to arrive, or the active and engaged educator who is improving everyone’s writing?
  • Were you hired to fix basic errors or because you have advanced knowledge of language and communication that would take years of dedicated training to replicate?

The Real Barriers to Improving Writing

Improving writing among colleagues is not easy. Some colleagues simply don’t want to learn. There are amazing scientists and engineers (and others) who don’t see writing as part of their job. Moreover, you can’t usually use software tools to help. Spelling and grammar checkers can correct mistakes, but they don’t teach. And they’re all generic.

What you need to improve writing at your organization is software that is specifically designed for your organization by the person who understands it best. That’s you.

If you build your corrections into PerfectIt, other barriers to improved writing vanish:

  • People don’t like to be corrected. Telling someone to change their use of language can be a difficult and heated conversation. But that same person is unlikely to get upset if you use PerfectIt to tell them chairperson is preferred to chairman. PerfectIt doesn’t threaten their status, and it helps them take pride in their own work.
  • Time for dedicated language training is expensive. If you want to teach a workshop or other session on writing, you’ll be taking people away from the tasks that your organization hired them for. But PerfectIt is intuitive and easy to learn. You can cover everything they need to know in ten minutes.
  • No one reads your house style guide. Sorry, I know they should. All the rules that you carefully compile often go unread. To make it worse, the people that need it most are the ones that won’t look at it. With PerfectIt, you build the rules of your house style into its suggestions. Your notes are delivered to users exactly when they need them most.

There are some people who simply don’t want to improve their writing. However, they shouldn’t stand in your way of helping your other colleagues. And with PerfectIt 4.1, we’ve created a tool that lets you do that.

A Recap: PerfectIt’s Style Sheet Editor

PerfectIt has always given you the option to build your house style into it. Since many people don’t realize PerfectIt has that capability, here’s a quick recap of some of the custom style checking you can already use the program to check. PerfectIt 3 or 4 can:

  • Find and enforce preferred spelling, including preferred branding
  • Search for terms that should be considered carefully, such as words that may cause offense
  • Display style notes so that users have guidance on why a term is preferred
  • Check for jargon that’s too complicated for readers and suggest alternatives
  • Enforce capitalization and hyphenation rules
  • And much more

If you want to learn more about how PerfectIt can help you enforce your house style, see our free online video tutorials.

PerfectIt 4.1 doesn’t alter any of that guidance. However, it adds one new capability that changes everything.

A Small Change with a Big Impact

The change in PerfectIt 4.1 is an extra tab in the Style Sheet Editor called Checks to Include. That tiny addition gives you the ability to create a separate PerfectIt style for colleagues, where you control:

  • If a PerfectIt check is included
  • What part of a PerfectIt check is included

That means you can create a PerfectIt style that switches off consistency checking or any other checks that would be too complicated for your users. You can make it enforce exactly your preferences and nothing else.

The number of PerfectIt styles you can create is unlimited. You can build one for each client (useful for proposal managers) or one for each journal (useful for publications managers). You can have all of PerfectIt’s checking turned on when professional writers and editors (who understand nuance and context) use it. You can pare everything back and just check for branding and offensive language when other colleagues use it.

You customize PerfectIt to check exactly what you want colleagues to check. And you decide what is displayed when PerfectIt finds issues.

What Kinds of Mistakes Can I Help My Colleagues to Identify?

Deciding what is best to correct yourself and where you can help others to improve is a difficult balance. In Part 2 of this post, I explore what you can teach with PerfectIt.


Daniel Heuman is the CEO and Founder of Intelligent Editing.

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