Who or What is Alt Edit?

My keyboard

Hello! Alt Edit is a blog written by me, Kevin O’Brien, a freelance editor based in the Adelaide Hills (formerly a senior editor for Random House in Sydney). I’m an editor first and foremost, but most people who know me professionally (or personally) know that I’m also a fervent advocate for on-screen editing, especially using Microsoft Word, as that’s the industry standard within trade publishing.

The editing profession as a whole is split between two camps on this subject, whereby editing in Word stills sounds a bit risqué to some editors (particularly those working in fiction) at the same time as it’s passé to others. In some types of legal publishing, for instance, editors have stopped working in Word and started working directly in XML.

I used to be a legal editor myself, for Butterworths Tolley (now Lexis Nexis) in London, about 15 years ago, and they gave me excellent training in formatting Word documents for a range of different products. Since then, I’ve built on that to become an expert in using Word for writing articles and editing books, and a large part of this blog will be assigned to offering Word tips and shortcuts (complete with screencasts) to authors and editors. I’ll also be giving away macros from time to time (after explaining what they are) and running a sort of ‘Word clinic’, as the software, while impressive, sometimes confounds people with its complexity and occasional compatibility issues.

So why ‘Alt Edit’? In the Word training courses I run, I always recommend using keyboard shortcuts as much as possible, rather than accessing the various tabs and menus with the mouse (because it’s quicker to keep your fingers on the keys as much as you can). You can assign your own shortcuts to almost anything you can do in Word, and, if you’re working on a PC, as I mainly do, you’ll find yourself using the ‘Alt’ key (in conjunction with ‘Control’) in your editing more and more – especially if you’re running macros. So this blog is about editing with the ‘Alt’ key held down.

Incidentally, the writing on the ‘Alt’ key of my keyboard has completely worn away; that’s how good an on-screen editor I am. (See the amazing proof at the top of this page.)

If I mainly used a Mac, of course, my blog would have to be called Option Edit – and that would be a shame, as it implies editing is optional, rather than a professional service that every published piece of writing can and should benefit from. Apart from that, I have no objections to editing with a Mac, and all of my Word tips will come with instructions for both Macs and PCs.

As I say, I’m an editor first and foremost, so I won’t be able to resist adding the odd post that has everything to do with editing and nothing to do with on-screen editing. And if there’s anything in particular you’d like me to blog about, or any Word tips or solutions you’d like to see, I’d love you to add your suggestions to the comments section.

In the meantime, a screencast of how to use three of Word’s handy in-built keyboard shortcuts is coming very soon.

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