Editing the Anastasia Way

Author: Anastasia V. Pergakis // Category:

I've made a few posts on this blog in the past about passive verbs and weak sentences. There are sure more to come in the future too.

When it comes to grammar, while passive sentences can be correct, the point is they take away from the story and the action. Active sentences suck the reader into the scene so they can see and hear and feel what's going on too.

With that in mind, I learned a new trick to help me find those pesky passive verbs a lot easier in my huge MS.

Create a Macro! Now, for those that are not computer savvy, don't worry. This is the easiest thing to create - seriously. I'll take you through it step by step!

1. I did a bit of research and wrote down four seperate lists:

Passive Verbs (is, am, was, were, be, being, been, has, have, had, are, -ing)
Weak Verbs (saw, felt, heard, walked, ran, thought, realized, seemed, sat, stood, sounded, took)
Weak Words (that, just, even, so)
Adverbs (always, every, never, very, often, several, most, really, sometimes, -ly)

You can create your own lists based on whatever you like. You can even join all four of my lists together into one list. Whatever way works for you.

2. I opened my MS and had my list handy.

3. Click on "Tools". Holding your mouse over "Macros" will show a side pop down menu. Click on "Record New Macro".

4. In the little window that pops up, create a name for the Macro (like Passive Verbs). In the description area, you can explain what the Macro does. Mine says "Yellow highlight of Passive Verbs". You can also use this window to set a keyboard shortcut.

5. Click "Ok" A tiny window will pop up with a "Stop" and "Pause" button. You are now recording and any changes you make to the MS, the Macro will record.

6. Go to "Edit" then click on "Find". (You can type Ctrl+F if you prefer). Click on the "Replace" tab in the new window. In the "Find What" area type in one of the words from your list. For my Passive List, I typed in was. Then in the "Replace With" are, type in was again.

7. At the bottom of the window is a button that says "More". Clicking on that will expand the window to show more options. I recommend selecting the "Find whole words only" option. (Make sure the cursor is in the "Find What" window during this step.) This prevents your MS highlighting any time the pattern is (like in the word this) and only hightlights the word is. When you add 'ing' or 'ly' to your lists, uncheck this option.

Now, here you can do a few different things. Clicking on the "Format" button at the bottom will bring up a menu where you can select different formats. (Make sure the cursor is in the "Replace With" window during this step.) What I do is select "Highlight". But you can change font color or even bold the word if you prefer. Experiment with the things on this list to find what works best for you.

8. Click "Replace All". You will see highlights appear all over your document.

9. Repeat steps 5 to 9 until all the words on your list are highlighted. (Tip: Once you have your format settings, all you need to do is change the words you wish to highlight. You don't need to close the window or reset any of the formatting for each word - unless you want to change it).

10. Click on the "Stop" button on the tiny Macro recording window. Clear all the formatting in your MS (Click on Ctrl+Z will undo the last change you made.) To test your Macro, go to "Tools" then"Macro" then "Macros...". Here you can see the list of all Macros you have made. Select the Macro you want to run and click on "Run". As you can see, all the highlighting you did previously is done in one easy step! (Depending on how long your MS is, this could take a few minutes for it all to show up.)

Tip: If you have more than one Macro and want to change the highlight color for each list, simply change the "highlighter" color then run the next Macro. If you selected different font colors while recording, you do not need to do this extra step when running more than one Macro.

It takes a while to create the Macro the first time around, but trust me, the time it saves you later, is priceless. Taking a few hours now to set up this feature will help you with ANY novel you ever write again. (If you get a new computer, you have to set up the Macros all over again, just so you know.) I open my MS now and get straight to editing rather than doing "Find and Replace" for each word, every time.

**This is for Microsoft Word on a Windows operating system. I know Pages on a Mac has something similar to this feature.**

4 Responses to "Editing the Anastasia Way"

Eric W. Trant Says :
August 17, 2010 at 3:54 PM


You have my same brain, Anastasia. Way back when, circa 2002, I created a Word document I called "The Grinder," using VBA (macros) such as you're using.

It ground out weasel words, -lys, passive to-be verbs, and bad habit words such as: like, only, then, really.

I bolded all the bad words.

It's a great tool for first-pass editing of a finished piece.

Awesome post!

- Eric

Anonymous Says :
August 18, 2010 at 10:53 AM

Sounds like a lot of work. I got to the point wher I paid an editor, a good and trusted friend of mine, to edit my MS. Much quicker and painless. And he did a far better job than I did. Thank God for good editors.

Stephen Tremp

Elizabeth Mueller Says :
August 18, 2010 at 1:26 PM

How cool is this? You come up with the coolest things! I do that, but the old-fashioned way. I just hit the "find" button and check "highlight all items found in" and then I click any color.

I use this for repeat words. (Hair, eyes, smile, across . . .)

I've trained myself already to avoid passive words and weak words and adverbs. Yikes!

Thank you for sharing a word processing secret with us! *great big hug*

Have a great day! <3

Elizabeth Mueller Says :
August 18, 2010 at 1:28 PM

PS--I was looking forward to reading your post for the Bloggysnatchers. What do you think of my entry?

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