Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Use Microsoft Word to Punch up Your Prose

From overused adverbs to overly complex tenses, many mistakes writers make are predictable and easy to fix. Your word processing program probably contains a tool that can help you find these errors and tighten your writing. In Microsoft Word®, that tool is Find, which is located under the Edit menu. This function searches your document for whole and partial words.

Do you use the word “would” too often?

“Each day, Tom would go to work. He would sit at his desk pretending to be busy. Then he would walk to lunch.”

Type “would” into the Find window. One by one, see if you can replace it with simple past tense:

“Each day, Tom went to work. He sat at his desk pretending to be busy. Then he walked to lunch.”

Another common mistake is the overuse of adverbs. A well-chosen verb is more efficient—“walked slowly” vs. “sauntered, “ “ambled”, “moseyed,” “crept.” Luckily, adverbs are easy to find; most end in “ly.” Use Find to look for instances of “ly” and eliminate the adverb wherever possible. Try this on other things. Look for “ing” endings. Ruthlessly seek and destroy “very,” “really,” and “extremely.” If possible, have a writer friend look over your prose and point out other common flaws. Think of ways to use Find to seek them out. Happy hunting!

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