Find Love in the FIND Button an English teacher in the past and an author now, I constantly edit sentences, paragraphs, and pages of words.  One of my favorite ways to revise (and cut my MS word count) is to use the FIND button to solve these problems:

  • cut “in order to”
  • don’t use “start to”
  • drop “that” when unnecessary
  • replace “thing”
  • nix “I think” or “I believe” for a stronger opinion
  • spot “very” and “really”
  • refer to people as “who” or “that” (not “which”)
  • avoid “currently”
  • eliminate “there is/are” at beginning of sentences
  • search for phrases that can be used as contractions
  • check commas before “that” and “which” (use before “which”)
  • replace “over” with “more than” for numbers
  • consider revising sentences with words ending with “-ing”
  • search “not” and “n’t” and consider changing negative sentences to positive ones
  • know your tells (a couple of mine are “actually” and “just”)

When I’ve edited manuscripts, I find many authors rarely use the grammar & style check available in Word. When they tweak these settings, Word will identify all sorts of problematic sentences:

  • passive sentences
  • overall sentence structure
  • questions incorrectly punctuated
  • sentences that require commas with quotes and series
  • run-ons and fragments (although I turn this off for fragment use)
  • negation, noun phrases, possessives and plurals, relative clauses, and subject-verb agreement

Word can also spot stylistic errors, many accompanied with suggestive changes:

  • cliches, colloquialisms, and jargon
  • contractions
  • gender-specific words
  • hyphenated and compound words
  • misused words
  • numbers
  • long sentences over 60 words
  • sentences beginning with “And,” or “But” (but I disengage this one)
  • successive nouns and prepositional phrases
  • unclear phrasing
  • use of first person
  • verb phrases
  • wordiness
  • words in split infinitives (more than one)

I’m sure my FIND list can be doubled. Can you add to the list, or do you have any tells that niggle their way into your writing?

Published by: Paula Williams

Paula Williams is an English teacher whose experience with teenagers informs her work. When she's not reading and writing fantasy books, you might find her published in literary journals--including the acclaimed Del Sol Review--editing author manuscripts, teaching writing conferences, or tutoring disadvantaged kids in Oklahoma City.

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