Many, many moons ago, Loralie posted a couple of Scrivener Tips, including how to find out how often you’re using all words in your story, including those pesky overused and crutch words that we all have.

Today, I want to take it a step further. If you have a list of words you need to watch out for in your writing, I’m going to show you in Word how to highlight them all at the same time, so you can fix them. Keep in mind, I use Microsoft Word 2010 for Windows, and steps may be different in other versions or other software.

Before you start this process, keep in mind it’s not easy to undo. Once your list of words is highlighted, you’ll have to manually assess each one and figure out how you want to deal with it. Because of this, I recommend saving your manuscript with a new file name to do this.

  • First, open up a blank notepad document and record all the words you want to look out for.
  • Every word goes on its own line.
  • Unless you’re looking for a proper noun, make sure every word is lower-case
  • Then save the file somewhere you can find it again:

Next, open your manuscript in Word. Click on the References tab, then click on Insert Index

    A new dialogue window will open.
  • Click on AutoMark…
  • A file open dialogue box will open. Change the file types to All Files *.*
  • Browse to the text file you created earlier, click the file, then click Open

You’ll be returned to your manuscript and it will look different. All hidden formatting will be turned on now. You can turn it back off at any time under the Home tab – it’s the button that looks like a backwards P. But you’ll need it on to see this change, and the words you highlighted won’t go away until you remove them, so leave it on until you’re done with this.

All through your manuscript now, your repeated words will look something like this: moved{XE:”moved”}. I’ve highlighted a few in the example below -they won’t have the highlight color on them, but they will have the {XE:””} identifier after them:

Here’s where the editing bit comes in. Read through your document like this. As you reach each word, this is your chance to chage it or leave it as you see fit. In each instance, once you’ve decided, highlight the bit that looks like this: {XE:”moved”} (but with whatever word you’re working on in place of ‘moved’) and delete it.

You’re done when you’ve deleted all instances of {XE:””} from your manuscript.

If anyone knows of ways to do this in other applications, or different ways to do this in Word, let us know in the comments below!