I’m introducing another new feature here at Lector’s Books: Writing Wednesdays. I just can’t help myself – I’ve always adored alliteration. My plan is for this to be a once or twice a month feature, but we’ll see how it goes. If you have any requests for subjects you’d like to see featured, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org . I’m going to use this to share tips and tricks for writers, or help on how to avoid some common pitfalls that annoy readers.
Today’s feature is going to extol the wonders of CTRL F, or the “find” function in MS Word and, I assume, every other text-containing program you can think of. As I’ve said before, I think most typos and small writing mistakes happen because authors are too familiar with their own work to really see them. It’s kind of the opposite of not being able to see the forest for the trees – you can’t see the individual words for the sentences/story. This is where knowing your strengths and weaknesses can be very helpful. If you know that you struggle with certain issues (especially homophones) using the find feature will help you isolate these words and truly see them, despite your familiarity with the work. For example, suppose you have the following in a manuscript: “She was so excited to see him, standing over their by his family, as if he’d never left.” (I said I wasn’t a writer.) If you’ve read this several times, you may not notice that you’ve used “their” instead of “there”. This is where using “find” comes into play. Make a list of words that you either know you struggle with personally, or just words that are often misused. Then go through and do a find for each one. This really doesn’t take nearly as much time as you think it will, and will isolate the instances of the words so that you see them out of context of the narrative. So when you do a word search for “their”, this sentence will pop up, with the word “their” highlighted and you can see that you need to change it to “there”.
As a side note, you can do this on your Kindle as well. I’ve used it when reading books for reviewing, if I notice that, say, “it’s” and “its” are commonly confused, I might do a search for those words so I can check whether there were, in fact, several mistakes, or if it just seemed that way to me.
Here are some words that I’d recommend doing a find for: it’s, its, there, their, they’re, there’s, theirs, the symbol ‘ (apostrophe – this can take the place of it’s, there’s, and so on), peak, pique, peek, loose, lose, and most importantly, any particular word that you know you tend to misuse.
Anyone use this feature as a quick self-check? Did it work for you? What other words would you recommend CTRL F-ing?