3 Great Ways to Use FIND Before You Submit Your Manuscript

by | Writing | 8 comments

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.— Samuel Johnson

by geralt

by geralt

First, consider these two cautions in using the find and replace feature of your word processor for editing:

  1. Look at each occurrence from the search results to make sure a change works. Automatic replacing can cause problems. For example, consider the paragraph: “He sat next to her. In his grief, he was beside himself.” If you perform a find on next to and replace all with beside, you’ll have: “He sat beside her. In his grief, he was beside himself.”
  1. Replace in moderation. If the change works, do it. Your aim is to reduce repetitions and weak words and phrases, not eradicate certain words.

3 Ways to Use FIND on Your Polished Manuscript


  1. Peruse novels or keep an eye out for well-written phrases. When you find better or more concise phrases, search for a key word that’ll lead you to your ho-hum or wordy phrase and replace the ones that need a change.
by Pescador

by Pescador


If you mention a steering wheel often while characters drive, search on “steering wheel” and try a phrase like the following I found:

Before: He turned the steering wheel and left Main Street…

After: He turned off Main… 

  1. Check counts. If you use an individual word (other than expected high-frequency words, such as the, he, a character’s name) in an 80,000-word novel over 200 times you should work on reducing them. Once, I used up 417 times. I cut the occurrences significantly. Check the words mentioned in 3. below. Using some of these over 25 times may be too often.

To obtain a count:

  • PC = option + f and enter the word
  • Mac = command + f and enter word
  • Scrivener (get a count on every word in your manuscript) =
    • Select desired scenes
    • Click on Editor screen
    • Click on Project, Text Statistics, and Word Frequency
    • Click on desired column to sort

Screenshot 2015-07-14 11.41.59

  1. Search for these words or characters.
  • Your favorite word. In one manuscript, mine was while.
  • Exclamation marks. Use these for shouting in dialogue and thoughts. Your choice of words should show excitement.
  • Ellipses (…)
  • Filler words like uh or um.
  • by HebiFot

    by HebiFot

    Weasel words such as just, very, and some. Here’s an excellent post on words, phrases, and characters to search for: Editing Your Own Writing on Darcy Andries’s website. This is a must read. It covers:
    • Unnecessary and Redundant Words
    • Weak Words:
      • Dull Drab Diluters
      • Filtering
      • Colorless Verbs
      • Modifiers

Before sending your manuscript to a publisher, use FIND and search for these. Click to tweet.

What is the word, phrase, or character you have grossly overused in your manuscript?

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  1. LoRee Peery

    I have discovered I overuse a certain (different) word in each project. The first time I wrote a rough draft without editing, I used the word when over and over. One page had seven — ugh. Valuable points as always, Zoe.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      I’m the same way, LoRee. My word changes from manuscript to manuscript.

  2. marilyn leach

    You can never “overdo” when correcting your manuscript for submission. Thanks for the tips. Cheers

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      I’m searching on a word now, Marilyn, that is repeated in every scene. It’s taking a while to look at all the occurrences. But I can see how much I’m improving the writing.

  3. Cathe

    Showing my age here… those of us who learned to use a typewriter in high school were taught to use two spaces after a period. Then we gradually got in the habit of using only one space, as is the current correct pattern, but it’s hard to be consistent. I use the Find feature to see where I have used “. ” and change it to “. “

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Oh, yeah, Cathe, I did that for a while. Finally, one-space blanks are ingrained.

  4. Jane Foard Thompson

    Just came back to reread this post, and just have to tell you that my biggest offender is Just. I appreciate your giving details on the mechanics of finding the offenders. Just great!

  5. Zoe M. McCarthy

    Just so happy for you, Jane.

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