Find and Replace

When I have a long piece of work to edit, enhance, and rewrite, it helps to use the technology available to me. My tech savvy is only moderate, but I’ve learned to make good use of some of the functions available to me.

One of my favourite tools in Word is Find and Replace.

Suppose I am reading over a section of my writing and I’ve just realized that my Constable Andersen mentioned near the end of the book is spelled “sen” and elsewhere in the manuscript I’m sure I had it spelled Anderson with the “son” ending. Now I’m wondering how many more times I’ve spelled it Anderson, and where in my manuscript might those instances be?

Luckily, using Word, I don’t have to read the whole ms to look for “Anderson.” That’s what Find and Replace is for.

I go to the beginning of my ms and click on the Home tab. On the far right, I see a tiny set of binoculars with the word “Find” beside it. I click on “Find” and in the navigation window that drops down, I can type in the word I’m looking for.

I type in “Anderson,” the word with the wrong spelling (for the purposes of my novel). Word will automatically take me to each case of “Anderson” when I click the up or down arrow. At each stop, I have the option of going into the text to change the spelling to “Andersen.”

If I had a change to make that involved more than just a few words, I could use the Replace option to do the work for me. Depending on which version of Word you have, you can either click on Replace (under the binoculars on the right), or, in older versions, click on the Replace tab in the window that opened when you first clicked “Find.”

It’s a fast and easy way to be sure to find all instances of some mistake you may have made.

Watch out for a funny thing that can happen when you are using Replace.

Let’s say you were changing one of your characters from a girl to a boy. Every time you have referred to the girl you’ve said “her.” Now that you are using a boy, you want those words to say “his,” not “her.”

But beware. Find will show you all cases of “her,” even if it is only a part of a longer word. If you changed all cases of “her” to “his,” you might end up with a new spelling nightmare with “mother” changed to “mothis” and “there” changed to “thise.” As I’ve discovered, there are many words with the letters “her” in them.

Definitely use Find, but use Replace more carefully.

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