Catch and Replace

Don’t miss this tool for finding your mistakes.

Want to submit an error-free manuscript? Remember one keyboard shortcut.

Seriously. A few days ago, this simple command enabled me to catch multiple problems I’d missed in my first two editing passes through a book-length manuscript.

The novel told a great story. But the author struggled, as many of us do, with a few fine points of English.

He tended to capitalize every instance of Mom, Dad, and Grandpa. Capitalizing those is correct when used in place of a proper name: “Let’s go to lunch, Dad.” But they should be lower case in a generic sense, such as “your mom” or “his grandpa.”

He also confused its and it’s. The first is a possessive, such as, “The hawk carried a mouse in its beak.” The second is a contraction for “it is,” so “It’s difficult to explain.”

If this manuscript were to make a positive impression with a publisher, those mistakes had to be fixed. But first I had to find them all.

If this manuscript were to make a positive impression,
all those mistakes had to be fixed.

That’s where this wonderful shortcut applied. In my first two editing passes, along with other problems of style and substance, I fixed all those I found. But they were like dandelions. More always seemed to emerge.

So I typed Ctrl plus H and activated the excellent shortcut known as Find and Replace. In the field  that appeared for Find what, I typed its. In the field for Replace with, I typed it’s. Then I clicked the box marked Find Next.

Immediately I saw an its. I scanned how it was used in the sentence. If the its was possessive, I clicked Find Next.

But if it represented a contraction, I clicked Replace.

And so it went throughout the novel’s 60,000 words. Catching every one. Making the author happy — and the novel’s eventual publisher.

The next time you edit your work, give it a try. You know what words you tend to confuse. (If you don’t, ask your critique partner.)

It’s okay as you write to confuse they’re, their, and there. Especially now that you know how to catch them all — and quickly fix them.

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About Andy Scheer

With more than 30 years in publishing, Andy Scheer has provided freelance editorial services since 2010. He has edited fiction and nonfiction for publishers including Moody, WinePress, and BelieversPress, as well as for clients including Dirk Cussler, McNair Wilson, DiAnn Mills, Heather Day Gilbert, and Sammy Tippit.

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