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Automate Your APA Italics: The VBA Macro That Saves Your Sanity

The Problem: Manually Italicizing Symbols in Your Manuscript

Navigating APA formatting rules can be challenging, and at times, they might even seem a bit absurd (captions above a figure, anyone?). If you’ve ever found yourself bogged down in the tedious task of manually italicizing statistical symbols in your Word documents, you’re probably not alone. For years, I painstakingly italicized every “p”, “F”, and “t” by hand in manuscripts. Or I simply skipped this step, hoping a diligent proof editor would catch and correct it.

The Solution: A Simple VBA Macro

However, with the advent of AI tools like ChatGPT, automating these mundane tasks has become significantly easier. I still have a fondness for Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) to streamline repetitive tasks, so let’s hope Microsoft will keep this option available in the future. Here, I combined the power of both ChatGPT and VBA.

After some googling and a brief session with ChatGPT to teach it the basics, it generated the following VBA script, ItalicizeSymbols. This macro is designed to search for specific statistical symbols (like t, F, p, and others) and automatically italicize them if they are preceded by a space and followed by an equals (=), greater than (>), or less than (<) symbol within 10 characters.

Here’s the VBA script:

Sub ItalicizeSymbols()
    Application.ScreenUpdating = True

    Dim symbols As Variant
    symbols = Array("t", "F", "p", "r", "d", "M", "SD", "ß", _
    "g", "MS", "MSE", "SD", "R2", "R", "BF", "W")

    Dim symbol As Variant
    For Each symbol In symbols
        With ActiveDocument.Range
            With .Find
                .Text = "[ (]" & symbol & "[(0-9 ,.\[\])]{1,10}[=><]"
                .Replacement.Text = ""
                .Forward = True
                .Wrap = wdFindStop
                .Format = False
                .MatchWildcards = True
            End With
            Do While .Find.Found
                .Start = .Start + 1 ' Move to the start of the symbol
                .End = .Start + Len(symbol)
                .Font.Italic = True
                .Collapse wdCollapseEnd
        End With
    Next symbol

End Sub

How to Run This Macro

To run this macro in MS Word, follow these steps:

  1. Press ALT + F11 to open the VBA editor.
  2. Insert a new module by selecting Insert > Module.
  3. Copy and paste the above code into the module.
  4. Close the VBA editor.
  5. Press ALT + F8, select ItalicizeSymbols, and click Run.

By automating the italicization of statistical symbols, you can save a significant amount of time and reduce the risk of missing any formatting requirements.

Macro in action

This was the unformatted (dummy) text I pasted into MS Word.

And this was the result after applying the macro in less than 1 second:

As always, use this macro at your own risk. Ensure you try it out on a backed-up Word document first to prevent any data loss.

Happy writing!