I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

Oh no! I’ve just realised that for the last eighteen chapters of misspelt the London Borough of Haringey as Harringay (a district within that same borough – it’s just asking for trouble isn’t it!).

So, once I’ve uttered some profanities, correctly spelt and hyphenated, I’m going to need to go through my manuscript and change them all. Each one. By hand.

But wait! There’s an easier way!

Microsoft Word can quickly and easily replace them all for me.

I’m sure that we’re all familiar with the Find and Replace function. And, I bet one or two of you have some horror stories of clicking Replace All that ended with some disasters.

But there’s more to this function than first appears. Let’s look at some of the advanced features and how it can help in your writing and self-editing.

Aside from replacing whole words, the Find and Find and Replace features can search for other things within your manuscript. If you are a notetaker or a highlighter, you can search through your comments or look for parts of the text that are highlighted.

There are also options for looking for particular styles, different fonts or even different languages. You know that random sentence that’s in Comic Sans, now you hunt down any others!. Or when Word magically flips into being American English even though you are damn sure that you set it to British English.

But you don’t have to search just for words. You can also search for other, sometimes hidden, marks within your manuscript. Here are some codes for finding other things:

any digit^#
any letter^$
What’s on the clipboard*^c
What’s in the Find What box*^&
Em dash^+
En dash^=
Graphic^g
Line break^l
Manual line break^m
Nonbreaking hyphen^~
Nonbreaking space^s
Optional hyphen^-
Paragraph mark^p
Section break^b
Tab^t
White space^w

So, why is this useful for editing your manuscript?

Let’s imagine that you have accidentally added two line spaces after each of your paragraphs. If you had turned on your formatting marks, you’d see something like this:

We want to get rid of that extra paragraph mark between our two paragraphs. Here’s how.

  1. Open Find and Replace
  2. In the Find what box, we’re going to search for examples of two consecutive paragraph marks. To do that we need to type in ^p^p
  3. Then, we’re going to want to replace that with just one paragraph mark. So, we type in ^p
  4. Be careful! Choosing Replace or Replace All may lead you back to the expletives we had at the start! My advice: always review each change unless you are confident you can replace all!

That’s just one, rather common, example. You could, for instance, search for all the times that you have put a space after a full stop before a paragraph mark: . ^p (note the use of the space!)

Or replace all of your unspaced em dashes with spaced en dashes because that’s what your publisher needs.

Find and Replace is a powerful tool for writers and editors. Have a play and see what you can search for.

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Published by Nick Taylor | Editor & Proofreader

Editor, proofreader and writer. Available for hire!

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