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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What I Wish I'd Known About Word

Courtesy of tomdavies
Yep. That's me. Technologically challenged is my middle name.

I thought I knew my way around Word fairly well. I mean, it's a word processor. What's to know? You open a document, save it under the name you'd like, and you type.

But that's just the beginning.

I'm sure most of you already know these tips, but for those of you who don't know, these should save some time and frustration.

Tip#1 Find and Replace

So simple, right? Boy, I wish I'd know about this function back when I wrote my first, serious novel with the aim of writing professionally. Right about the time when I learned that they'd lied to me in high school about double spacing. It turns out, double spacing is for type writers, while single spacing is for electronic documents. Heh. So. I went through my 80,000-word manuscript and obliterated every single extra space. By hand. I also changed a number of character names. Also by hand.

Save yourself the time and drudgery and just click on the "Edit" menu, scroll down to "Replace" and click on it. A box will pop up and all you have to do is type in the original thing (think period, space, space or a character's name) and then in the space below it, type in what you want (period, space or new name).

Tip#2 Find and Replace + highlight

This also works if you're working on overcoming certain writerly tendencies that weaken your writing such as an abundance of adverbs, to be verbs, gerunds, and the like. Say I want to make sure each page isn't peppered with was or were. I pick the color I want to highlight these words in and have it set. Then I hit the "Replace" button. I type in "was" and in the next space, I type in "was" and then I highlight it.

Makes life so much easier. Although I will caution you on doing a search for -ings if you're looking to curb your gerund problem. There are a whole lot of words with -ing in them that aren't gerunds. Lesson learned the hard way. Especially if you have the "Track" function on.

Tip #3 Bookmark

When you're going through and editing your novel, it makes sense to have a bookmark to remind you where you left off. Prior to discovering that Word has a bookmarking function, I simply highlighted the word (usually the first word in a new chapter) I needed to begin with the next day.

But scrolling was a pain.

And then I discovered bookmarks. If you click on the "Insert" menu and scroll down to almost the very bottom, you'll see the word "Bookmark." If you click on it, a box will pop up asking you to name the bookmark. Being the creative person that I am, I always call it "here." Then you push "Add" and you're good to go. Just make sure you save before you close the file.

When you want to go to the bookmark, simply repeat the process: Insert-->Bookmark. The box will pop up. Make sure the bookmark you want is highlighted and then push "Go to" and then "Delete" if you don't want to keep that particular bookmark.

And you're good to go.

Anyone else have any tips and tricks to help make Word even more efficient and writer friendly? 

*gerunds: verbs masquerading as nouns: Running is hard work. To run is a verb, but here, it's the subject of the sentence and acting as a noun. Not an evil thing to do, unless most of your sentences start this way.

Danyelle writes MG and YA fantasy. In her spare time, she collects dragons, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers. She can be found discussing the art of turning one's characters into various animals, painting with words, and the best ways to avoid getting eaten by dragons on her blog.  


Misha said...

I never knew about bookmarks! I'll definitely use them from now on. ^_^

Angela Felsted said...

I didn't know about the bookmarks. And I can't believe you changed all your double spaces to singles by hand. That must have been amazingly tedious and time consuming.

Julie Musil said...

I didn't know about highlighting or bookmarks. Thanks!

Sandi Johnson said...

I did know about find & replace, and highlighting...but I didn't know about the bookmark function.

There are tons of little tips and tricks for using Word. In college, I discovered that Word would format my citations for me, and set up a reference page/bibliography for me. That was my single biggest, most helpful discovery about Word.

I'm sure there's tons more it would do, if I took the time to pay attention. ;)

Jessica Hill said...

I knew about the find and replace and highlighting options, but I didn't know about the bookmarks. I will definitely have to start using those!

I also like the Document Map. If your chapters are formatted as headings, they'll show up in the map and you can click from chapter to chapter.

D.B. Smyth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
D.B. Smyth said...

Never thought about Find & Replace with highlight. Thanks for the tip!

Chazley Dotson said...

Great post! I discovered something recently, and it's kind of complicated, but the idea is that you can use Word to make an outline of your novel, or at least, a list of the first sentence or two from each of your sections or chapters.

You'll want to start by saving another copy of your document because this process changes some of your formatting.

In Find and Replace, you would decide how many characters you want to use from the first part of each section. It's easier if your sections are separated by some mark. I use number signs, so if I wanted an outline with the first three characters (in reality, I would use 25 or more), then I would type #^?^?^? into the find box (my section break symbol plus three "any character" symbols).

Yeah, I warned you that it was complicated.

In the Replace box, select format: paragraph: outline, level 1.

Replace all. Then go to View: Outline. You should see the first bit of each section, which can help if you're looking at fixing the pacing or rearranging an entire novel. (Revising is fun! Right?)

Jordan McCollum said...

Just a note: don't confuse gerunds with participles. Your definition of gerunds is 100% correct—but more often, the problem with -ing verbs at the beginning of sentences is present participial phrases: Running to the car, she heard the distant sirens.

Of course, I find that if you overuse participials, gerunds, or a mix of both, the effect is just as grating ;) .

Lucinda Bilya said...

Great Tips!

Writing is so much easier than in the ancient days where manual typewriters were the norm.

One feature I like in MS Word is the auto stuff found in Word Options.

In one manuscript, I changed the name of a character using the search and replace feature. In days of old, that would have been a major rewrite project.

In Options, I select ALL the alerts for "passive voice," "repeated words," and much more.

Thanks for the "bookmark" tip! The next time I work on a rewrite or edit, I will try that feature.


womenswrites said...

Surprisingly helpful in several ways! Thanks!

Martha Ramirez said...

Great post! I did not know about bookmarks. Thank you for sharing!

PW.Creighton said...

Don't forget about inserting comments when you're revising/editing to make note of points you may want to change in your revisions. Simply highlight a word, sentence, etc and hit Insert--->Comment and type your comment.

Carol said...

Great post! Thanks for all the tips. I use a + mark to note where I want to return the next day and just search for it. Sometimes I have a + where I want to start reviewing a rewrite and ++ where I need to start revising.

I also use auto correct (under tools) to make it easy to type in long words that I use often -- for instance, I have set it up to change bec into because, or I can use it to capitalize a character's name so I don't have to bother each time.

Wes said...

Here's one that helps with editing (especially if you edit things with references, like I do).

Just above the up arrow on the scroll bar on the right side of the document, there is a little bar. It sits between the arrow and the menu bar, just at the tip-top of the ruler.

Click and grab the bar down. You now have a split screen of the document, so you can keep half the screen on one section and scroll through the doc with the other section.

Find and Replace will flash through only one panel.

Like I said, great for reference and citation checking: You can keep one view on the actual reference and check citations in the other panel.

Does have some other handy uses, too.


Shannon said...

I can't imagine living without Find and Replace!

The Sandtray Coach said...

So much good information but what version are you using? I can't find Word Options. Great post.

Lucinda Bilya said...

@SandTray - I am currently using MS 2007. I had XP before and the options settings are different.

If you are using 2007, click on the Office icon in the upper left corner of the browser window. The Word Options button is in the lower left corner of the drop-down menu.

If you are using XP, Options are found in the Tools menu drop-down menu. It is at the very bottom of the menu. I don't think XP has as many options, but they are still worth checking out.

Danyelle said...

You guys are all so awesome!

I'm going to have to try out the document map and outlining! I love that you can search for things like passive voice! I never knew that.

Comments and auto correct are definitely time savers. :) And I'm definitely going to be using the split screen in my future!

Sandtray, I'm using the 2008 version for Macs.

Thanks for sharing your tips, everyone! I learned a lot just through the comments. :D

ElisaJaime said...

Wow. Great little tips that go a long way in making our work much easier! Funny how you get used to Word and ommit these kinds of things. Thank you so much!

Melony said...

Not a word thing, but a great help also -to find out if you've got word overuse issues, you can go to www.wordle.com and copy any/all text to get a killer word balloon that will pinpoint overuse issues. Plus, it's kinda super cool! :)