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Aiming for perfection: Can PerfectIt make you a better editor?

No matter how great an editor you are, you will make mistakes. Whether a sneaky italicised full stop or a thirty-foot-high expletive on a billboard, errors make their way past the most conscientious of checkers.

But, as Oscar Wilde possibly said (or thought) at some point, ‘to err is human, to use robots to prevent yourself from erring is awesome’. While spellcheckers can compare your writing to a dictionary, they can’t tell you when you’re using the wrong style or are being inconsistent. PerfectIt, by Intelligent Editing, is an add-on for Microsoft Word that removes most of the risk of these mistakes surviving to a final draft. While it’s not designed to check for grammar or spelling, PerfectIt makes the difficult job of ensuring consistency and compliance with a particular style almost effortless.

How should PerfectIt be used?

I’ve been using PerfectIt in my editing work for over a year and would struggle to return to my old pen-and-paper ways of checking a text. PerfectIt works best when it is run after completing all of your line-by-line corrections to a document. In other words, it should be used to correct the work of the editor, not the writer. When applied in this way, it cleans the text in stages, asking the user to confirm at each point whether a certain spelling or style is preferred, before applying that change to either the entire document or a selection of text. All the user needs to do is to click once for each change. Want to remove all double-spaces? One click. Need to check for undefined abbreviations? One click. After using PerfectIt at the end of a job, you can be fairly confident that your work is consistent and finished to a professional standard.

My computer is a medieval wooden clog — can it run PerfectIt?

PerfectIt is currently in version 4. Although its system requirements are low, Scribbr editors sometimes found that in earlier versions of PerfectIt, the program was unstable when handling complex documents (i.e., anything other than plain text), and frequently ended in work-destroying crashes. Fortunately, PerfectIt’s developers appear to have addressed such problems with version 4, making this a highly stable piece of software.

Advanced features

In addition to its basic consistency checks, PerfectIt has an array of advanced features that allow users to customise the way that they edit each text. Users can switch between built-in styles such as UK, US, Canadian, and Australian spelling, as well as various legal and medical styles. Scribbr editors often deal with multiple styles per day, so this flexibility is essential. However, if you want to use a particular house style (e.g., APA), PerfectIt allows you to build your own style sheet and provides helpful tutorials on how to do so.

The ‘style sheet editor’ lets the user fine-tune the style of a text. This enables you to do everything from specifying which Latin terms should be in italics to adding ‘taboo’ words that need to be replaced. While we Scribbr editors have a list of words that should be avoided in academic writing (an academic on safari would call an absolutely humungous elephant merely ‘large’, before being abandoned on the savanna), some words are only taboo in certain contexts and vary per paper. PerfectIt lets you quickly add these to your style sheet as you find them. It can then replace them all at once or highlight them for you to review and change individually.

Is it perfect?

Despite the many advantages that PerfectIt 4 provides, new users may find some elements of PerfectIt’s interface less intuitive than those of other, less customisable editing tools. For instance, if you want to add a comment directly to the text instead of via Microsoft Word’s ‘Revisions’ pane, this can’t be achieved in one move while PerfectIt is running. In my time using the software, I have encountered similar issues for which a solution is not always as you would expect. However, while certain aspects of the software might not appear to make logical sense at first, Intelligent Editing has a capable support team that is usually able to suggest workarounds for any issues not covered by their tutorials.

Even considering such issues, PerfectIt is still a time-saver and pays for itself after a few documents, as it can potentially cut hours from the process of checking a draft for inconsistencies. It also reduces the risk of human error considerably. While the naked eye is liable to scan over a misplaced hyphen or a ‘traveled’ that later grows into a ‘travelled’, PerfectIt makes no such mistakes. This leaves editors fresh to focus on the more artful aspects of their craft, like checking the tone and flow of the writing or getting that last bit of coffee out of the bottom of the cup without choking on the grounds.

Final verdict

With a mostly easy-to-use interface and a surprisingly wide array of features, PerfectIt 4 is a highly-recommended tool for editors and writers of all levels. The fact that not all of the tasks that Scribbr editors might find useful are possible without workarounds make this add-on not quite perfect, but close enough. At the very least, I recommend making use of the 14-day free trial to see for yourself how it can improve your approach to editing.

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The Scribbroo offers inspiration and advice for and by freelancers and language lovers. Together with our community of 600+ freelance editors across the globe, Scribbr helps students graduate and become better academic writers in more than 10 languages.

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James Campbell-Macdonald

James Campbell-Macdonald

Freelance writer and editor

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