Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author


Find-and-Replace is your friend

Here’s a post by Nancy Jane Moore at Book View Cafe, on using the find-and-replace function to check on pronoun use — in her case, because she was writing an ambigender novella.

Well, I can tell you, she is dead right about the usefulness of the find-and-replace, or even just the find function alone, only she does not go far enough. Here’s where I have used it lately:

1. To remove a character from the manuscript. When you are taking out a character, the Find command is invaluable to make sure the character is in fact completely and totally removed from the manuscript.

2. To change the word “imaginary” to the word “ethereal” throughout the manuscript. For good and sufficient reasons, I assure you. Incidentally, it is possible to find-and-replace only italicized instances of the one word and replace it with an italicized version of the second word. I didn’t know that until last night, but under the correct rather peculiar circumstances, it is extremely useful that you can do that.

3. To check and see that a particular word is in fact italicized throughout. You can search for italicized and regular versions seperately. Again, I just confirmed that last night.

4. To check that a particular misspelling that plagues you has not occurred. I am thinking here of character names. Is the names Diollonuor or Diollunuor? If your fingers couldn’t tell the difference and you accidentally added both spellings to your working dictionary, find-and-replace can fix the problem.

5. To change one word into another word because you have changed your mind. I once changed “arrow” to “bolt” everywhere because I changed the bows to crossbows. Incidentally, you must then be on the lookout for words like “spbolt,” where you used to have “sparrow.”

6. To get rid of every “all right” because the publisher was bound and determined to spell the word “alright,” a usage I detest with the passion of a white-hot burning sun.

7. To go through your entire manuscript and look at every. single. dash. Also semicolons, the word “very,” and so on and so forth. This is incredibly tedious and annoying, but taking the time to do this will almost certainly result in a smoother reading experience in the end.

Good lord, this is turning into a top ten list. Three more reasons to use Find or Find-and-Replace?


8. I once named a main character Brendan, then at the last minute read a newly published book I thought comparable to mine that had the same name for its protagonist. I thought the two books might share enough of an audience to make this awkward, so I changed my character’s name (to Bertaud, whom you may recall).

9. In fact, speaking of character names, my Saga editor, Navah, suggested that MOUNTAIN had too many characters whose names started with the letter G. Find-and-Replace is perfect for changing some of the names.

10. I’m out. Anybody else use a Find or Find-and-Replace for something I missed?

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7 Comments Find-and-Replace is your friend

  1. Rachel

    That is funny! Yes, it’s much much safer to look at each replacement with your very own eyes rather than just hit “go do it.”

    Also, honestly, publishers, don’t skip the copy editing stage. Look what can happen!

  2. mona

    Incidentally, in regards to # 5, you can include a space before and/or after the word you’re searching for. So ” arrow” instead of “arrow”, which would eliminate any occurrences of “sbolt”.

    You can also find and replace capitalized or non-capitalized words, so I’m sure you can do bold too although I’ve never tried that in particular.

    I’ve also used find and replace to get rid of double spaces and tabs; although tabs was in Excel, haven’t tried it in Word, but it should work the same way.

    I use this frequently at work. Saves me so much time.

    Bertaud is a much cooler character name.

  3. Rachel

    YES. I totally forgot about spaces, but the find-and-replace function is SO IMPORTANT when adjusting spaces.

    10. You can find-and-replace two spaces with one if you care about that. You can find three spaces to eliminate extra spaces. You can find N dashes and replace them with M dashes, with or without spaces on both sides of the dash. You can get rid of tabs before adding paragraphs using the Styles function.

    All that stuff is super, super handy and I definitely use these tricks all the time. Thanks for reminding us about that! Also, I will remember your trick with adding a space before or after a word to prevent little problems like with “spbolt.” Clever!

    And I’m glad you like the name Bertaud!

  4. Andrea K

    Find/replace should allow you to find whole words only as well which avoids your sbolts.

    In certain situations I’ve used an intermediary change – turning a particular version of a word to ~bleep~, then doing a bulk f/r of remaining instances of the word and then turning ~bleep~ back to the first instance.

    F/r is a lifesaver at times.

  5. Macsbrains

    Memorizing the codes (^p for a hard return, ^t for tab, ^l for soft return, etc.) is also worthwhile to make quick changes in formatting a breeze, especially if you are copying web material into a .doc and everything ends up funky.

    The f/r formatting can do more than just change one italic to another italic, you can also set it for styles, headers or fonts, etc.

  6. Rachel

    Oh, yes, Andrea, I’ve done that, too — that definitely can be very useful. One doesn’t need that trick very often, but it’s great to have in your box of tools when you need it! And yes, if I’d thought ahead, I could have avoided the spbolts. Though I’m sure a spbolt is very cute when you get used to seeing it instead of a sparrow.

    Macs, I’ll keep that in mind next time I am copying stuff from the web and everything, as you say, winds up funky.

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