Saturday, December 1, 2012

The "Find" Tool Cheat Sheet

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Those of us who've written two or more manuscripts know about the "Find" button in Word. But those newer to the land of Writing, with it's breathtaking mountains (requests or offers) and vast valleys (rejections galore), may not know about the magical "Find" button. And sometimes the seasoned writers need reminders, little tips, that help while editing. So, to help writers navigate through this wondrous land of Writing, I give you...
                                                                    *trumpets sound*

The "Find" Tool Cheat Sheet
A Piece of the Map Through Editing Forest

Character Catch Phrase or Action
Some MC's have a phrase they coin as their own. You can type that word into the "Find" tool and see just how often it's used. Is it enough to help define your character or do you go overboard and use it way too often? The MC in my last ms said, "Frick." It was her semi-curse. I entered that into the "Find" tool to see exactly when I used it, how often, etc.

You can do the same thing with your character actions. In my WIP all my characters seem to nod and smile. A LOT. Plug those words into the "find" tool and delete or replace those overused actions!

Dialogue Tags
You can "Find" the most common dialogue tags and replace them with more creative words or delete the tag altogether if it's not needed. 

A list of common dialogue tags to "Find": said, replied, asked, questioned, yelled

Common Adverbs
Sure you want to paint a vivid picture for your readers but you also don't want to abuse adjectives and adverbs. Insert common adverbs into the "Find" tool to see where you've used them. Once you find them, ask yourself, "Is this necessary?"

A list of common adverbs: suddenly, finally, quickly, completely, totally, abruptly, slowly, cautiously

Telling (& Not Showing) Words
We've heard over and over again how we must SHOW, NOT TELL. Well, insert those "telling" words into the "Find" function to check how you used those words. Did you show or did you tell? 
An example: My eyes scanned the crowd. <-- You don't have to tell the readers that the MC's eyes scanned the crowd. That's implied. You can change it to: I scanned the crowd. Or you can say: I searched the pulsating horde of groupies for...  You get the point.

A list of common "telling" words: feel, hear, see, eyes, hands, other body parts, wonder 

Whether you are a new or seasoned citizen in the land of Writing, hopefully this short list of words to "FIND" in your manuscript will help during your travels through the Editing Forest. That forest can be quite thick and daunting. Do not be discouraged though, fellow Writer! For those who are well prepared going into the Editing Forest may come out having found Writing GOLD!  
                                                         *gallops out on my noble steed* 

What other words do you search for using the "Find" tool? What function does it serve? How did NaNo go for those of you who participated? What are you doing to prepare for edits?

*Sorry for the silliness of this post. I'm feeling a bit goofy today. Probably too much coffee. : ) Tonya


  1. Wordle ( is a fantastic tool that will show you in one glance what words are used more frequently in your ms. It might be a good starting place before using the "find" tool.

    Great post, by the way!

  2. VERY good to know! Thank, Nicole!! *bows to the editing master* :) (She's good, guys. Like -- really good.)