“Find” & “Replace”


“Find” & “Replace”, found in the Home tab at the top of a Word doc, are exactly what they sound like – and then some. These are terrific editing tools.

Open a Word doc that you’ve been working. Click the Home tab. “Find” is located at the far right of the tab. Click it. The Navigation panel appears.

Type a word or phrase into the “Find” Navigation panel, and Word will find that word throughout your document. Use “Replace” instead, and you can replace that word or phrase with whatever other word or phrase you decide better describes your ideas. (note: each word is highlighted throughout the document).

Use these to make your writing tighter and to help you format your document. Here’s how:

Editing with Find and Replace

As an editing tool, use “Find” to locate trite phrasing, overused words, ineffective adverbs, or passive phrasing, then, if applicable, use “Replace” to repair them.

If you are:

Writing fiction, use “Find” to see how many times you’ve written “said”. Add clarity to your writing – did the speaker instead declare, mumble, or shriek?

Overusing words – type a word you suspect you may use too often into “Find”. I tend to use “perhaps” too often. I use “Find” to help me keep my writing fresh.

“And” can be a troublesome word for some writers. Search your document for the word “and”. It’s a perfectly good word, but it can indicate some writing flaws. If you use the word “and” multiple times in sentences, perhaps your sentences are too long. Or, maybe you are using “and” where a comma is needed. Could you use lists instead? Are you punctuating correctly?

Using ineffective adverbs when a strong verb is what you need.

Type “really” or “very” into “Find”. Usually you don’t need either of those words; you need a stronger verb.

Using ineffective phrasing

There is (was, were, could have been, should have been, might have been, etc.). There’s nothing really wrong with these phrases, everyone uses them, but phrasing should have impact and these have no impact. “There’s nothing really wrong” is hack phrasing. Depending on what you’re writing, e.g. casual nonfiction or fiction, using a few of these phrases may be fine. They give your writing a conversational tone. Overusing them makes your writing boring. Avoid them completely in serious nonfiction and academic writing. The easiest way to correct one of these sentences is to delete the phrase and add a strong verb to complete the sentence.

  • NOT:
  • There should have been an easier way to fix the sentence.         
  • BUT:
  • An easier way to fix the sentence is to insert a strong verb.
  • For an easier way to fix the sentence, insert a strong verb.
  • Inserting a strong verb is an easy way to fix the sentence.

If, like me, you find you use these tools often, add them to your Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) using the dropdown arrow at the end of the QAT (top left on your document). The next-to-last item in the Customize Quick Access Toolbar is “More Commands”.  Click that and modify the QAT for your needs.  Happy editing!