Although I’ve been using PerfectIt for many years and can’t imagine editing without it, I’ve tended just to use it as a final check before texts are ‘good to go’. Consulting a style manual has been something I’ve done before using PerfectIt, to check consistency and generally tidy things up. But this can be time-consuming, and so having a style manual incorporated into PerfectIt is attractive. That way, the issue presents itself automatically instead of you first having to search for the grammatical or stylistic point in the manual and then making a decision.
The latest version of PerfectIt was easy to install, as was the link to the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). You log in to the Intelligent Editing website to link the two accounts. Then you open PerfectIt in Word, click on the CMOS option in the list of styles (all in the usual place) and you’re up and running.
On the versions of English spoken on either side of the pond there are things we know we know, and things we know we don’t know. That’s when style guides come in handy. But then there are the ‘unknown unknowns’, when it wouldn’t have occurred to me to question some things the CMOS flagged up as ‘Britishisms’ or non-standard. When testing the new feature, I therefore selected some articles previously edited in UK English to see:
- what would show up if I switched to the standard US spelling option in PerfectIt;
- what else would be highlighted by the CMOS (the ‘added value’).
In addition to highlighting inconsistencies and non-preferred spellings in the usual way, the main benefit of the new CMOS add-on is that it automatically provides a more detailed explanation and some context, including the reference to CMOS in case you want to know even more. I like the way PerfectIt presents the CMOS explanation in a bite-size block, as this protects against language-geeky tendencies to get waylaid by other information long after you’ve resolved the point at issue.
A useful tip for non-US users wanting the CMOS to check their style without applying US spelling is to run PerfectIt twice (it goes really quickly): firstly using CMOS and secondly using, say, the UK spelling option, but then only the ‘Spelling Consistency’ check (deactivate all the other checks in ‘Choose Checks’).
If you already use PerfectIt and have a CMOS subscription, using CMOS within PerfectIt simply saves time at no extra cost. A no-brainer. But if you don’t yet have a CMOS subscription, whether you want to pay the annual fee (about USD 40) on top of your PerfectIt subscription will depend on how often you use that style.
As nearly all my clients want UK spelling and style, I didn’t previously have a CMOS subscription. But although I normally try to steer clients towards (or toward, if I follow the CMOS suggestion) British English and spelling, I was really glad to have to use CMOS this week – a client suddenly wanted US English for one assignment. And I’m rather hoping there’ll be more requests for US style in the next few weeks. That’ll make it much easier to decide whether to opt for a subscription when the free trial ends. And if those requests don’t materialize, I can just enjoy some easier decision-making within rather than outside PerfectIt.