Home page  |  More useful articles  |  Search for more information

How to Make Self-Editing Easy
"Musings" for October 2005

by Margot Finke

Margot Finke's Musings is hosted by:

The Purple Crayon

Find more resources for writers in the Articles section.

See the Musings index to find other installments.

* * *

Children's Books at Amazon

Other places to shop:
Purple Crayon Bookstores

If you are a 21st Century children's writer you must learn how to self-edit. Gone are the days when all you needed was talent and imagination, and some poor editor would mop up the rest. Those days are history. Read on, for great writing and self-editing tips with a twist!

Sure-Fire Self-Editing and Writing Helpers:

Over the years I have collected a host of simple and effective tips on writing and self-editing. I can thoroughly recommend them. Click on the two links below for practical self-editing help.

Secrets of Writing for Children

Critique Service

  • What to Aim for When Writing.

Now the Twist:

The MS Word Tools listed below will help you implement the Self-Editing and Writing Helpers you find on my website.

Partner MS Word™'s Find and Replace with Their Thesaurus.

These neat tools allow you to treat your chapters like a garden. With their help, you can weed out weak words, snip cliches, and prune back qualifiers. Team Find with Word's Thesaurus, and you can seed your pages with strong verbs, or dig out tired adjectives, and replace them with fresh, lively ones.

How To Use Find and Replace:

Go to EDIT at the top left of your Word screen. Scroll down and click on Find. Type in the word you want to track down and click Find Next. Change the word to whatever you want, and click again. Keep clicking until you have found all of them.

  • Track down and remove junky modifiers (very, just, etc.)
  • Find verbs that give weak sentence construction (was going, been having etc.)
  • Prune out that one word you use far too often (like, suddenly, just or little?)
  • Snip words that make weak, tentative sentences (felt, feel or seemed)
  • Weed out the adverbs that prop up weak verbs. Use the THESAURUS to replace them with verbs that are more dynamic and active.
  • If you decide a character's name is not a good fit, change it in seconds with Find and Replace. Go to Edit at the top of your Word screen. Scroll down and click on Replace. Type the word you want to track down into Find What, and the replacement word into Replace With. Click Replace All and it is done in seconds.

Using MS Word Thesaurus:

Whenever you work in a Word Document, it is easy to call up the Thesaurus. Outline a word and click SHIFT F7. Every time you track down weak verbs, modifiers, or clichés, plug them into your Thesaurus. It will spit out a variety of punchy, vital and active words for you. If a word is ho-hum, overworked, or not quite right, use Word's Thesaurus. Strong verbs, great adjectives and other stunning word choices are at your fingertips. For fast, easy, on the move word choices, Word's Thesaurus is a great asset.

Make Comments:

Comments is a nifty little tool that lives inside the INSERT file at the top left of your Word Document. Place your pointer wherever you wish to insert a comment. Click on Insert, then scroll down and click Comments. A second screen will pop up on the bottom of your page, ready for you to type in your comment. Click Close when finished. Each Comment leaves a yellow mark and is numbered. This mark does not print out. Hold your pointer over the yellow mark to read what you have written.

To bring up the Comments toolbar, RIGHT CLICK on a blank space at the top of your document. A list of possible toolbars will drop down. Click on Reviewing to activate the toolbar for Comments. This toolbar allows you to Delete & Edit Comments, as well as send the document you are working on as an e-mail attachment, right from the page. Hold your pointer over the various boxes on the REVIEWING toolbar to see the possibilities.

Do bright ideas about changes to characters and plots pop into your head as you write? Use Comments to make notes. Mark a weak sentence or verb for later replacement with stronger, or more descriptive words. Next time you read that chapter the yellow marks will jog your memory, allowing you to remember those earlier bright ideas. Excellent for reminding yourself that something needs research, or that more facts are needed to enrich a certain character.

MS Word Document Map – A Fast Chapter Find:

Document Map hides at the top of your Word Document, on the left hand end of the STANDARD tool bar. It looks like a tiny magnifying glass in a white square. Hold your pointer over it to verify. To the left of your FONT NAMES and SIZES is a white slot with a down arrow. The slot usually reads "Normal." This is where you go to set up your Document Map chapter headings, titles, sub-titles, etc.

How do you make all this happen? Easy. Whenever you begin a new chapter, add a chapter title, or a new sub-heading, click on the down arrow beside the white slot that reads "normal." A drop-down list of heading choices appears. Click on whatever is applicable, and type the details onto your page

  • Heading 1 - Used for numbering chapters (CHAPTER ONE).
  • Heading 2 - For chapter titles (The Long Story).
  • Heading 3 - Possible sub-titles.
  • Heading 4 – Normal (usual text)
  • Other headings you might need follow.

Click on the Document Map, and it shows your chapter pages on the right, and their various headings on the left. Say your book file goes from chapter #1 to chapter #10. You want to read a portion of chapter #7, sub-titled "The War Years." Scroll down the left hand list of headings to chapter #7. Then, click on the sub-heading you want. BINGO, you're there. Click the Document Map again, to bring up the full, easy to read page that begins, "The War Years." Document Map allows you to hop easily from chapter to chapter within a file. Click Document Map again to close it.


First, use my Self-Editing and Writing Helpers. Then, make use of the Document Map to quickly find the chapter you want. Once there, Find will hunt down any weak verbs, and the Thesaurus will show you strong and vibrant alternatives. Replace offers a fast name or word change throughout your document. Finally, Comments make sure you don't forget those grand, "on the fly" ideas, and reminds you that a character or setting needs enriching or research.

Happy Writing Mates.

Margot Finke's biography and index to Musings.

Crayon tiphomearticlesCrayon end
Home page | Articles index