Notes on Editing #1


Welcome to the first issue of my Notes on Editing newsletter for editors and authors.

Course Update

My first course, LaTeX for Academic Editors, is being built now. It’s a big one. I have 16 modules and around 100 videos on the plan right now. Those numbers might change a bit as I dig deeper into the modules. Topics will include, among others, document organization, formatting, lists, figures, tables, math, and working with Overleaf. Some of you got to this list from a short Overleaf overview video I made a few months ago and shared on a couple of the editor mailing lists. The Overleaf module in the course will be expanded from that (and will be much better produced!).

After getting through the preliminaries, the course is designed so that participants can dip into topics in whatever order they need to. The transcripts and slides for each module will be downloadable, along with any example LaTeX documents and cheat sheets for some of the topics.

Right now, I’m looking at launching at in the 2nd half of the year. I’ll pin down that date as I get closer — watch this space!

Using PerfectIt with LaTeX

I use PerfectIt as a final step on every document I edit, even those in Google Docs and LaTeX/Overleaf. In case you’re not familiar with PerfectIt, it’s a great tool for ensuring consistency within and across documents. It checks for consistent capitalization, hyphenation, spelling, and a lot more. It’s also highly customizable. One of my favorite pieces is being able to define “words or phrases to avoid.” I use that with words that are easily confused, like compliment vs. complement, for example. That gives me a double check that I haven’t missed any misuses.

Someone asked me recently how I used PerfectIt with LaTeX, so I thought I’d share that here as well. It’s messy and takes a bit of manual work, but to me, it’s well worth it. At a high level, I generate a PDF, convert it to Word, run PerfectIt in Word, and then manually make any needed changes to the LaTeX document. The more detailed steps are below.

Step 1: Turn off hyphenation in the LaTeX document.

No matter how the PDF is converted to Word, end-of-line hyphenation isn’t handled well. Using Adobe’s conversion to Word, hyphenated words are split in two (“implemen- tation”, for example). Using Word to import a PDF, those hyphens are usually removed and the words squashed together. That’s fine for words that were hyphenated because of a line overflow, but not so good for words that should be hyphenated (“longterm”, for example).

So, it’s best to temporarily turn off hyphenation. Right before the begin{document} command, I insert the following command:

\usepackage[none]{hyphenat} %temporary hyphenation removal for export to Word

That command will prevent LaTeX from hyphenating words when they overflow the end of a line. The result may not be pretty, as you’ll see words that run past the margin, but that’s not all that important for what we’re doing.

Inserting \usepackage[none]{hyphenat} before the begin{document} command.

Step 2: Export the LaTeX to PDF.

If you’re in Overleaf, this is done with the download button over the PDF view.

The download button in Overleaf's editor.

Step 3: Remove the command we added in step 1 and recompile the document.

This is just to put the document back in shape for the client with hyphenation working like it should be. Not that I’ve ever accidentally left it in. Ok, maybe once. Or twice.

Step 4: Convert the PDF to Word.

There are two good ways I know of to get the PDF into Word. I usually use the Export to Word option from Adobe Acrobat Pro. I don’t think this option is in the free Acrobat Reader. Adobe does have a free online converter, but I have not tried it.

The command in Acrobat Pro is at File -> Export To -> Microsoft Word -> Word Document.

The other option is to just open the PDF in Word and let Word convert it.

Both of these options have drawbacks. Adobe’s conversion tends to make a total mess of math, but that’s ok for running PerfectIt. Word’s conversion handles math better, but in my experience, the import often fails. Neither one does a good job with figures and tables.

Another alternative is to just copy and paste the LaTeX into Word. That will work if there are no \input or \include files, but you won’t get the references, and citations and other generated text from commands won’t be included. Math won’t be formatted at all. Hyphenation hints may also cause issues with PerfectIt and Word’s spellcheck.

Step 5: Run PerfectIt in Word

Now that the document is in Word, I run PerfectIt. Any changes I need to make based on the PerfectIt run, I manually make into Overleaf. The main difficulty at this stage is finding the text in the LaTeX. Usually I do this using Overleaf’s search, which works well if there are several instances of the same thing I need to correct (missed hyphen in “long term”, for example), but I can also often find the right place by matching clues like section headings and figures or tables from the Word document to the LaTeX. One caveat for the search: It sometimes will not find multiword phrases that the author has split across lines.

Step 6: Run Word’s spellcheck. Once I’m done with PerfectIt, I also run Word’s spellcheck. This can be painful if the document is heavy on math, of course, and at this stage, most of what Word should turn up is math and names in citations, because I’m running this as a last step before I hand the manuscript back to the client. But, taking the time to run it is worth it to me as a final check. Since I’ve brought the full PDF over to Word, the spellcheck runs against the bibliography as well as the main text. Again, anything I need to change at this point I do manually in LaTeX.

That’s it. Messy and partly manual, but to me, worth it for the value PerfectIt brings to finalizing a manuscript.

That’s All…

That’s it for this time. If you have questions or feedback, or if you’d like to talk with me about an editing project, drop me a note at And please feel free to pass this email on to anyone you think may be interested.

Thanks for reading!


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