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?