I use the Find and Replace tool in MSWorks a great deal while I’m editing. It works if you discover a consistent spelling mistake. It’s great for fixing names, especially when writing Fantasy, where I can never remember the spelling of my own characters’ names. But it’s good for other things as well, and when you get into formatting for publication, it takes on a whole new meaning.
I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I’ll mention a few of my favourite uses, and maybe our more experienced readers can add to the list in the Comments below. In my version of MSWorks I find this function in the “Edit” dropdown menu.
The first and most prevalent demand for this function is in correcting, when you find you’ve made a consistent spelling or usage error. “Replace All,” magically fixes all errors. You click on the “Replace” button (see the arrow in the middle of the picture above) fill in the “Find what:” and “Replace with:” and it does the dirty work, informing you at the end how many it replaced.
WARNING, WARNING, and a third time, WARRING.
(And yes, I spelled it wrong to make sure you were paying attention.)
Save a copy of your MS and think thrice before you hit “Replace All.” It’s an irreversible process, and mistakes can happen. For example, one night very late I was trying to decide whether the French use “M.” or just “M” for “Monsieur,” as in “M. deGaulle” or “M deGaulle.” When I figured out that the period is supposed to be there, I went to “Replace All” and did so. I replaced every “M ” with “M. ” (Notice that’s “Mspace” and “M.space.” Can you figure the problem?
Yep. Every word in the whole MS that ended in “m” got changed to a capital M. “I like ham and eggs.” Became, “I like haM. and eggs.” Irreversible. And I couldn’t use the “Replace All” to fix it, because that would have messed up all the “M. deGaulles.” And you don’t mess with M. DeGaulle, believe me. Not even in Canada. Trash it and go to the backup.
Fortunately, there is a way to do this one right. Down on the left hand side of the “Find and Replace” window, there’s a little down-arrow in a box (in the red circle), which if you press gives you a series of choices, the first one of which is “Match case” (red box). That means you don’t change anything that’s not in caps if you choose not to.
So in the situation in the graphic above, it would replace every “Gordon” but leave “gordon” alone.
This is especially useful if you somehow misspelled the name “Chip” because you can change all the examples of “Chip” but it won’t change “chip” or “chippy.”
This is the most common cause of errors in “Find and Replace:” changing a word that shows up in longer words. Change every “Mis” to “Miss,” and you’ve also messed up every “mistake,” “missile,” and “promise.” Even if you used “Match case” you’re going to get the ones at the beginning of a sentence.
It may be slower, but sometimes it’s better to use “Find Next” and “Replace” and do them one at a time.
Those Nasty Overused Words.
I use Pro Writing Aid to check my manuscript (MS), and it is deadly on overused words, and keeps telling me over and over. So the moment I discover I am overusing a word, I stop, go into “Search and Destroy” – pardon me, “Find and Replace,” and check every usage in the MS, changing when necessary. Saves me a lot of time when I go back to Pro Writing Aid, and really gives me a sense of having beat the machine when those words aren’t flagged. (If you really want to know, the words I usually have to trash are “believe/think,” “knew/know,” “a moment,” “have to,” and “going to.” Sound familiar? Yes, and “going to have to” as well, if you must ask.)
Formatting Your MS
If you want a good eBook formatting guideline – I do like the formatting style guide from Smashwords, but it’s rather specific to their needs – I usually use the free one from Trafford Publishing. (You don’t have to actually sign up to get the guide for free, but you do give them information about yourself and your book, so be prepared for some follow-up.) I don’t use their other services, but their “Word Layout” is very clear, and sets your MS up for Createspace and other self-publishers perfectly. Including Trafford, to be fair.
You need this function, because before you publish you’re going to have to (See? Used it again) go to the “Special” menu (red rectangle) to get rid of all those double paragraph returns and double spaces and other garbage that you didn’t know you put in when you were writing. The “Special” menu shows you how to find the standard formatting codes, all of which use the caret mark that you create with Shift/6. So ^p means “paragraph break,” ^g means “graphic,” ^w means “white space” and other surprisingly logical symbols.
Put two symbols in the “Find what:” and replace them with one symbol in the “Replace with:” and Robert is your mother’s brother. All those double returns are now singled up.
But don’t stop after hitting “Replace All” once. Maybe you had some triple paragraph breaks, or even more. These have just been reduced to doubles or whatever. So you keep hitting “Replace All” until Word tells you it found “0 replacements” and you’re done.
I could go on, but I’ve always found that people learn better when they have some input into the process.
What are the rest of you using?