Writing Tip – Word Repetitions

Today I am going to share something I have learned as a writer: frequent word repetitions can be the ugly wart on Nanny McPhee’s face. Have you seen the movie? I thought it was great fun. And the wart was hideous. So was the snaggletooth. I digress…

Frequent word repetition can pull a reader out of the story. They make the reader stare at the page. Or the wart.

Them thar’ words might indicate a tendency for the author to write in passive voice (too many be / was words). Or they might be an author’s favorite word (like “just”). Sometimes they are simply a result of writing small amounts each day and forgetting what you wrote yesterday. I can’t remember what I ate yesterday, let alone what I wrote yesterday. And I like to eat. Even more than I like to write. Maybe.

But if the high-frequency occurrences are so undesireable, how can you squash all them little pests?

Here is a MS-WORD tip to brighten your day:

In your WORD tool bar, find the HIGHLIGHTER. Turn on a color. Any color. Except for pink. No pun intended for the word brighten in the previous sentence. Which I have now repeated.

In your Edit menu, click on “Replace”.

Fill in the fields as shown below:

First fill in your “Find what” field. Then click on the check-box for “Find whole words only”.

Then fill in your “Replace with” field. When I am editing, I find “was” and replace it with a “was” which is highlighted. You highlight by clicking the “Format” button and choosing “Highlight”. I leave these highlights in and then edit the entire manuscript for that type of word. Editing goes quite fast with the green and yellow highlights. Remember, no pink.

If I am only wanting a frequency count, I replace “was” with “ZZZZ” or something else, and watch how many it finds when I click the “Replace All” button. Once it is done replacing the words, I can change it back. Using a strange string of letters and choosing the “whole words only” option assures me that I don’t replace the was in washington by accident. We wouldn’t want to count that one anyway. The “ZZZZ” also makes it easy see, and easy to turn back to a “was”.

NOTE: Notice that your buttons at the bottom of the window will change (and the lable for the section also changes) depending on whether your cursor is IN the find field or the replace field. That will help you to not be LOOKING for highlighted text…. unless you really mean to do that.

I hope this was helpful for all you writers out there. Just kidding about the pink.

Have fun!



Writing Tip – Word Repetitions — 5 Comments

  1. Excellent tip! I noticed I used "look" and "turned" and "through" a lot. Sometimes it can't be helped but it'll thin out the count. Thanks Daron!

  2. PS–this is a little off-topic but I'm late on congratulating you for getting picked up by Valor. Way to go! You beat me πŸ™‚

  3. Great tip, I never thought of this, but it will help a lot with finding those repetitious words. I've been told my current WIp has more than enough useages of "enough." =)

  4. Awesome tip! I'm excited to try this so I don't have to keep clicking back and forth between the "find" box and my current over-used word I'm trying to X out. πŸ™‚

  5. I'm so glad you changed your mind about pink. I was starting to wonder if you still liked me.

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