From editors to writers, working with words requires taking a series of elements into account, from grammar to structure. Conscious language, however, has made it to the forefront of these when it comes to delivering neutral, effective text. To help you with this, I have created a free PerfectIt conscious language style sheet.
What is PerfectIt?
PerfectIt is an add-on software to Microsoft Word that helps you create, essentially, a consistent document. It can, for example, check for spellings of words or that tables are correctly numbered/ordered. Although it seems to be more widely used by professional editors, it can also be very useful for people such as independent authors that mostly self-edit their work.
One of the functions that PerfectIt offers (Windows users only) is the ability to create/upload your own style sheets. If you require a specific style on a document, you can add these preferences onto PerfectIt to save you time.
Using the sheet
PerfectIt is a fairly straightforward software to use, so you can start running it with only a couple of clicks. When it comes to uploading new style sheets, this page covers the necessary steps. If you would like to read through the terms included, here are instructions on how you can do so.
After considering what the most efficient way to create this sheet would be and discussing it with other professional editors, I decided that the best way to do it would be as a completely separate check. This means that, if you run this conscious language style sheet, you will need to do it in addition to your style sheet of choice, since mine checks for nothing else. This saves time, especially in long documents, and focuses the sheet on its one task. You can circumvent this by merging it with your preferred sheet using the instructions in the link above.
Since conscious language changes are not always straightforward, all entries in the sheet are under the category ‘Phrases to Avoid/Consider’. This means that no changes are automatically offered, and you have to consider the context and decide what the best course of action is.
I am by no means an authority on conscious language, and this sheet is not a definitive guide on what language you should use or not, or a way to ‘police’ your writing. I consulted a variety of established sources and added terms when there was a generalised consensus that they should be reconsidered. Taking into account the limitations of the software, certain generic terms that have a multitude of meanings and would cause more ‘false positives’ were generally avoided. I often include suggestions for fixes, but they are not the only available options.
When it comes to conscious language context is very important, and this is something that, of course, PerfectIt cannot check for. For example, a lot of the terms included were perfectly acceptable at other points in time, so you might ignore them if you are working on a historical piece. My purpose in compiling this sheet was to bring attention to terms that you might want to look into yourself, and then make your own decision.
Download the style sheet
If you would like to download my PerfectIt Conscious Language style sheet (version 1.2), click the image below.
Language is ever-evolving, so this sheet will be periodically updated. If you want to suggest changes or additions to the list, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To be notified when a new version is available, subscribe to my mailing list through the button below.
Sofia Matias is a professional writer, editor and proofreader. She specialises in working with independent authors of Young Adult and genre fiction, publishers and publications. She is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP). Learn more about her and her services on her website and connect via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram.