Search and Destroy … er … Find

Now a literary agent at WordServe Literary, Barbara J. Scott has been a book editor for 13+ years and has more than
30 years of publishing experience, ranging from newspapers and magazines to
books. The fiction line at Abingdon Press exceeded all sales expectations, and
Barbara has been credited for kicking off a well-rounded series of quality,
highly-reviewed novels. Among her many published works, Barbara is the
co-author of best-selling novel Sedona Storm, as well as the sequel Secrets of
the Gathering Darkness, both published by Thomas. Nelson. 
Over the years I’ve harped at authors
never, ever to turn in a first draft. Some writers think the editor’s job is to
spiff up their grammar, correct misspelled words, change passive voice to
active, eliminate repeated words and phrases, or do laser surgery on their
mixed metaphors.
Word travels in publishing circles about
whether you’re a professional or you’ve made your living on the backs of good
editors. You don’t want to be known as a hack writer.
Hopefully, the electronic tool known as search and find will make your
self-editing chore more enjoyable.
1. Passive voice (one of my pet peeves): Passive voice
is created by using a form of be, such as am, is, are,
was, were, being, be, or been and followed
by the past participle of the main verb, or gerunds comprised of a present
participle (ending in “ing”) that functions as a noun. Learn more in Hacker’s Rules
for Writers.
Search for these words and recast your sentences to make them
more active. Examples:
Passive: He was jumping over
the cliff into the river below to escape.
Active: He jumped over the
cliff into the river below to escape.
2. Qualifiers: These words
clutter up your writing. Sometimes I think writers use them to boost their word
counts. Examples: begin, start, started to, almost, decided to, planned to, a
little bit, almost, etc. Examples:
With qualifier: Mary felt a little
bit out of place among the nouveau riche.
Better: Mary felt out of
place among the nouveau riche.
3. Weasel Words: These words are
easy to spot. You can drop them and no one will notice. My high school English
teacher told me that if you could replace the word very with the word damn,
you didn’t need it. Other examples: really, well, so, a
lot of
, anyway, just, oh, suddenly, immediately,
kind of, extremely, etc. I’m sure you can come up with your favorites.
With weasel words: Suddenly, she stood up and said, “Oh well,
let’s retire to the drawing room and just stay out of his way.”
Better: She stood and said,
“Let’s retire to the drawing room and stay out of his way.”
4.Adverbs: I don’t hate
adverbs, but they “usually” are unnecessary, especially in dialogue tags. Your
prose should communicate a character’s state of mind without using a tag line
such as the example below. Use search and find to look for an ly followed
by a space or a period.
With adverb: “I’ll kill him,” she
said ferociously. (Really?)
Better: “I’ll kill him,” she
5. Extraneous thats or thens: Use the global search-and-find feature for the word that.
If you can understand the sentence without it, you don’t need it. You notice I
didn’t write, then you don’t need it. Both of these words are over used.
Writing is rewriting, and rewriting
involves self-editing. It’s your job to turn in the cleanest manuscript
possible to your agent or editor. Use the search-and-find tool to speed up the
Can you think of other ways you can employ the
search-and-find feature in Word to edit your work?