Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Editing Yourself – Find and Replace

We’ve been talking about editing this month on the Children’s Book Hub. Even though I myself am a freelance children’s book editor as well as an author, I rely heavily on my collaborations with editors – at our publishing house, as well as on a freelance basis.

My mother and I are fortunate to work with truly gifted editors at our publishing houses – but for my own independent projects I always seek feedback from a freelance editor (such as Emma D. Dryden, whom I interviewed this month for the Hub).  You see, I’m not very good at editing myself.

There are many good reasons to work with a freelance editor in today’s publishing world – but here is perhaps the most compelling one:  Once a manuscript has been rejected, it will seldom be reconsidered by that same publisher… even if you rewrite it.  So it’s very important to get it as polished as we can be before the submission process begins, and the best way I know to do that is to hire a freelance editor.

That said, there are a number of things we can do to become better self-editors, to get our manuscripts into the best possible shape even before we submit them to a freelance editor… and I thought, given this month’s focus on editing, I’d explore some of them. Here’s one for those of you who use Microsoft Word:

Use the Find and Replace and Thesaurus tools.

“Find and replace” is the most efficient way to replace overused words. For instance, I tend to overuse the word “wonderful”. It crops up all the time in what I’m writing and it drives me insane. What I do is write, write, write – and when I’m done, I click “Find” (under the Edit tab), type in the word “wonderful” and each time the tool pulls it up in the manuscript I choose a better word to replace it with (using the “Thesaurus” tool – or the real, bound Thesaurus if I get stuck!)

If you want to change a character’s name, you can use the find and replace tool to pull up all the “Mickey’s” and change them to “Mikey” in one mouse click. You can click “find next” and walk through the manuscript word by word, or you can click “find all” and do a global replace on a word or name.

Among the things you might want to ‘find and replace’ (with better choices from your Thesaurus!) are:

  • Cheap or cheesy modifiers (very, just, etc.)
  • Passive verbs / tentative or weak sentence construction (was going, been having, seemed, felt etc.)
  • Words you use too often (wonderful, like, suddenly, little)
  • Adverbs that prop up weak verbs
  • A character’s name (Replace All)


7 Responses to “Editing Yourself – Find and Replace”
  1. Suzie says:

    Wonderful — I mean, great, fabulous blog entry, Emma! 🙂 Find and Replace (especially Replace All) is one of the best inventions ever!

  2. Patricia Tllton says:

    Am happy you are sharing some of Emma Dryden’s thoughts with your own spin. Hadn’t thought to use the “find replace” to check for overused words. Great tips!

  3. Beth says:

    Very timely post, Emma, as I get into the deep end in the editing of my current manuscript. “Wonderful” is one of my bugaboos as well, so the hint about using Find and Replace will serve me well in all my writing (letters, blog posts, emails, not just manuscripts).

    I have to admit that knowing that you make use of the services of a freelance editor is reassuring in that it shows that it isn’t just a sign of being a novice or mediocre writer that one needs such help, but that it can benefit someone who has already had great success as a writer. Thank you for that.

  4. anna barber says:

    Hi Emma – love your book RAISING BOOKWORMS, and am going to be referencing it in our next blog post on the Scribble Press blog – there are many ways we could collaborate – Scribble Press is a company dedicated to inspiring and celebrating creativity in children and we believe that reading and writing go hand in hand. You are kind of hard to reach -please let me know where we can reach each other. thanks, Anna Barber CEO and co-founder Scribble Press

  5. Diane says:

    Thankyou Emma, I have never thought to use the “find and replace”. Boy will it be overworked on my keyboard from now on….. suddenly and Like are my often used words… will see what others I find now. Thankyou, your a life-saver.

  6. Priscilla Rogers says:

    Great suggestion. I am beginning to write again, and the “find and replace” will be a tremendous help to me. I am learning so much from just reading your Emmasaries.

  7. Mary D says:

    Bless you for sharing your wealth of knowledge!

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