Counting Corrections

The problem

Over the last few years I have reviewed many student assignments, both at undergrad and PhD level, and as a favour for friends (or friends of friends), as a student supervisor, or as a freelance contractor. This kind of work has three main challenges:

  1. Timing: students, friends and clients often send you text to check at the very last minute. I think my personal record is sending the comments at 2am one morning (4 hours of broken sleep before a 6am start to a working day!)
  2. Constructive correction or comments: most often I work with people for whom English is not their first language (nor perhaps their second language either, which puts my language learning attempts to shame!). When I’m working in another language and I’m relaxed and confident, I really appreciate someone taking the time to explain my mistakes, but when I’m stressed and tired and I have a deadline, I just want the document corrected and to move on!
  3. Quantity of text that can be corrected: almost all my proofreading work is for people who will submit the work as their own, without formal reference to me or my help. So how much of a document can I/should I correct without formal recognition?

Co-author or ghost writer

When I first started proof reading, the first few thesis chapters I reviewed were high quality writing, which just needed the occasional grammatical correction. As I got more experience (and more work) the assignments needed a closer review, taking a longer periods of time, and more corrections, and I started to worry that, at some point, I would cross over into effectively ghost writing someone’s thesis. It’s easy to sit back and say that you should never do that, but it’s hard if you’ve been working with a client, or student, for sometime, to cut them adrift at the end of their studies (when most write ups are done) when they’re in real jam. Especially if that student has mortgaged the family home to study in the UK and hasn’t had any effective support from their department. (Although, as a university teacher is see that a lack of academic support can be a two way street, with students sometimes not taking their tutors advice in accessing support services.) I might be an OK-ish writer now, but Laurence Barron must have used a least one or two red pens marking up the first draft versions of my PhD!. Some time ago I decided that, as a freelancer, I could not write more than 10% of a text, without crossing over into ghost-writing. 10-20% seems to be a generally accepted similarity score (for systems like turnitin), so that where I based my level. The next problem is how I work out how much text I’ve changed. That’s where VBA helped again.

Macro design

I got my first hint from the wordribbon.net website, but I wanted my code to:

  1. Count all the characters and words in the reviewed text
  2. Give me a percentage of the number of inserted text to the final number of words.
  3. Give me values for selected text, not just the whole document.
  4. Allow me to add the data into the document (so I could keep a record).
  5. The code from wordribbon produces approximate values because VBA counts punctuation characters and leading whitespace as words, but I wanted a proper word count.

Points 1 – 4 were easy to sort as its simple coding changes, but I spent an hour or so playing around with code similar to some previous Excel VBA to try and count the punctuation characters using Regex replacement commands! I ended up with something like the code below (just for those folks who might be interested)…

StripPunct = oRevision.Range.Text
            With CreateObject("VBScript.RegExp")
                .Global = True
                .Pattern = "[^0-9a-z-A-Z ]"
                StripPunct = .Replace(StripPunct, "")
            End With

…before I stumbled upon the ComputeStatistics command that would do it automatically. So the code is….

Sub GetTrackChangeStats()

'Basis taken from https://wordribbon.tips.net/T011484_Counting_Changed_Words
'ComputeStatistics from https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/topic/word-count-appears-inaccurate-when-you-use-the-vba-words-property-835c0cd8-3bff-50d0-b6ea-9da4ca22e3ff

'declare the variables and set them to nothing
Dim lInsertsWords As Long
Dim lInsertsChar As Long
Dim lDeletesWords As Long
Dim lDeletesChar As Long
Dim lWords As Long
Dim lChar As Long
Dim sTemp As String
Dim oRevision As Revision
Dim answer As String
    
lInsertsWords = 0
lInsertsChar = 0
lDeletesWords = 0
lDeletesChar = 0
lWords = 0
lChar = 0
sTemp = ""

'a messagebox to check if text has been selected.
If Selection.Range.ComputeStatistics(wdStatisticWords) = 0 Then
    answer = MsgBox("You have not selected part of the document" & vbCrLf _
    & "Do you want to check the whole document?", vbYesNo)
    If answer = vbYes Then
        ActiveDocument.Range.Select
    Else
        MsgBox ("Select part of the document an re-run the macro.")
        Exit Sub
    
    End If
    
End If

'counts the characters and words in every revision in the range
For Each oRevision In Selection.Range.Revisions
    Select Case oRevision.Type
        Case wdRevisionInsert
            lInsertsChar = lInsertsChar + Len(oRevision.Range.Text)
            lInsertsWords = lInsertsWords + oRevision.Range.ComputeStatistics(wdStatisticWords)
        Case wdRevisionDelete
            lDeletesChar = lDeletesChar + Len(oRevision.Range.Text)
            lDeletesWords = lDeletesWords + oRevision.Range.ComputeStatistics(wdStatisticWords)
    End Select
Next oRevision

lWords = Selection.Range.ComputeStatistics(wdStatisticWords)
lChar = Len(Selection.Range.Text)

'creates the string for the message box

sTemp = "Insertions" & vbCrLf
sTemp = sTemp & "    Words: " & lInsertsWords & vbCrLf
sTemp = sTemp & "    New Words: " & _
Round(100 * lInsertsWords / lWords, 2) & "%" & vbCrLf
sTemp = sTemp & "    Characters: " & lInsertsChar & vbCrLf
sTemp = sTemp & "Deletions" & vbCrLf
sTemp = sTemp & "    Words: " & lDeletesWords & vbCrLf
sTemp = sTemp & "    Characters: " & lDeletesChar & vbCrLf
sTemp = sTemp & "Current" & vbCrLf
sTemp = sTemp & "    Words: " & lWords & vbCrLf
sTemp = sTemp & "    Characters: " & lChar & vbCrLf & vbCrLf
sTemp = sTemp & "Do you want this message inserted at" _
& vbCrLf & "the end of the selected text?"

'displays the message box to give the user
'the option of pasting the values into the
'document (at the end of the selection)
'it rewrites the sTemp string

answer = MsgBox(sTemp, vbYesNo)
    If answer = vbYes Then
        sTemp = "Insertions: Words " & lInsertsWords
        sTemp = sTemp & " : New Words " & _
        Round(100 * lInsertsWords / lWords, 2) & "%"
        sTemp = sTemp & "  : Characters: " & lInsertsChar & vbCrLf
        sTemp = sTemp & "Deletions: Words " & lDeletesWords
        sTemp = sTemp & " : Characters: " & lDeletesChar & vbCrLf
        sTemp = sTemp & "Current: Words: " & lWords
        sTemp = sTemp & " :Characters: " & lChar & vbCrLf
        Selection.InsertAfter Text:=sTemp
    End If


End Sub
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